Thursday, May 27, 2010

Prime-Time TV Tackles Autism

(CNN) -- In a scene from NBC's "Parenthood," two parents are attempting to get their 8-year-old son ready for school. The child insists on wearing a pirate costume to class, again. His father asks him to take it off so he won't get teased. His mother says it's OK, mainly so she can get him out the door on time.
It could be a scene from any prime-time comedy. But its context in "Parenthood" is unusual.
The 8-year-old boy, the son of main characters Adam and Kristina Braverman, has been diagnosed with Asperger's syndrome, an autism spectrum disorder.
Perhaps because tackling a sensitive issue such as living with a child with special needs can take a deft touch from the writers, producers and actors, a storyline dealing with autism spectrum disorders isn't something that's been portrayed often in Hollywood.
The most recent regular prime-time character with Asperger's was Jerry Espenson on ABC's "Boston Legal." The character's run lasted from 2005 until the show ended in 2008. Another ABC show, "Grey's Anatomy," introduced a short term character during the 2008-2009 seasons. Dr. Virginia Dixon appeared in a three-episode arc.
"Parenthood" is one of the few shows that have included a regular character with Asperger's from the beginning.

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