Tuesday, February 4, 2014

Dear Jason Katims, Writer of Parenthood

I just wanted to let you know that your show, "Parenthood" is surely the best family drama television show ...ever.  I'm not just saying that because it features, not one, but two characters with Aspergers --an adult played awesomely by Ray Romano  and a teenager, played extremely well by Max Burkholder.

I'm not saying that because my entire life happens to revolve around autism and Aspergers.  I live it breath it.  I have two teenagers who keep me very much aware of autism every, single, day of my life  and the show happens to depict the kind of things that families like mine go through on a daily basis.

I'm not just saying this because I was interviewed for an article in 2012, entitled "Autism In Pop Culture"  about this very same show.  You (Mr. Katims) were also interviewed for this article.  I'm sure it was one of hundreds of interviews for you.  For me, it was one of the highlights of my year.  It was featured in the Canadian Huffington Post and various media outlets.  No shameless self-promotion here. 

So, this past weekend ...I was doing my hair, which takes hours (because I have dreadlocks).  This gave me an excuse to be isolated in my room, with my door locked.  Otherwise, the boys, who don't do boundaries all that well, will come bursting in and start talking ...endlessly. Then I can forget about focusing on television.

While twisting my locks, I was able to catch up on my DVR'd episodes of "Parenthood.  Once I got started watching, I couldn't believe how long I had waited to catch up.  Every episode was better than the last.  There were so many layers, so much emotion, right down to the most recent episode, "You've Got Mold".

I think it really was the best episode yet.  It was so good in fact, that I am actually praying that the powers that be, never cancel this show.  I mean ...ever!  Do you hear that NBC powers that be? 

How can the entire world not be watching this show...every week? 

Yes. Sometimes the show is pretty sappy, sad and over the top emotional.  Jesus! That Christina character can cry her eyes out at the drop of a hat. Well last season, she had every reason to cry.  A kid on the spectrum, who is a handful, a daughter in college, a freaking baby and to top it all off --she   had cancer.  I thought the emotion of it all would kill me for sure.  It certainly made me a little less whiney about the battles I face everyday with my own two teenagers with Aspergers.

Well ...as you know, Christina beat cancer.  But she still cries on almost every episode. I think she needs a few visits with a therapist and little prozac.  At least she did get a little relief from the medical marijuana.  I wasn't jealous at all there. What me? Smoke marijuana? Never! 

The show is also funny.  Love that Crosby!  He's always good for a laugh.  I love the relationship between him and Jasmine -a mixed race couple on primetime t.v.!  I mean come on! How awesome is that?

The show has themes of art, music, politics, teenage love and pregnancy, drug and alcohol abuse.  I mean what angles doesn't the show cover?  

Yes. They solve problems in a rather grandiose manner.  Like in the latest episode, (my personal favorite, originally aired 1/23/14)  Christina decides to look into actually starting a school for kids on the spectrum.  Us regular folk, in real life might try finding a charter, private or homeschool when we find that our children's needs are not being met and/or they're treated like crap and bullied in public school.

I'll give you a break because this is after all -a drama. Therefore, their problem solving skills must be well ...dramatized.  Don't we all want to start our own school?  Quite frankly, I'd be happy to have the social skills aid who came to the house to work with Max during Season 1. Yeah, most of us can't afford that. 

I know my friends in my online support group, have actually talked about starting a whole commune of families with autism.  Imagine if you will --everyone in the community gets it.  They know the daily challenges you face.  They are supportive.  Our kids are accepted and understood.  They always have peers to play with who don't bully them for being different.  Mouths don't fly open every time your kid curses or tantrums in public during a meltdown.

We have all have coffee and cocktails together.  Not at the same time, but you know what I mean.  While we're fantasizing, all of the dads bake cookies and do crafts with the kids, while us moms are discussing therapies, medication and our latest battle with school administrators.

Oh wait a minute! There would be no stupid school administrators trying to get over on us,  by giving our children minimal services, that probably won't help the child's actual education.

By the way, that depiction of the I.E.P meeting on the show with Christina and her friend was spot on!

The child was clearly brilliant, but the school had no idea what to do with her because well ...she was different.  She probably has some behavior issues, which other kids would find disturbing or disruptive.  Yet, her educational needs clearly could not be met in a restrictive, special education environment, where most of the other students don't have her learning ability.  None of the teachers could actually challenge her.  So instead, the administrators throw mom a bone, like extra-time with the case manager, which of course will do nothing for her child's actual education.

This was such a realistic scene for so many of us.  I couldn't believe I was actually seeing an I.E.P. meeting on primetime t.v.  It was awesome!

The scene reminded me of one of the worst I.E.P. meetings of my life. The Administrator turned to me after I had given her a letter from my child's Psychiatrist.  His doctor was recommending a different setting for him or a one-on-one aid.  This woman actually turned to me and said, "His doctor doesn't know him the way we do.  She doesn't work with him on a daily basis."

Excuse me ...but did you go to medical school? Bitch please! You are messing with the wrong mama!

A few months later,  I turned their world upside down when I decided to take him out of the school all together.  All of a sudden, all kinds of help and supports came out of the woodwork.  Was it my persistence or the fact that I have a very big mouth and a blog, that many people in the district actually read?  Maybe it was the various law suits that the district was already facing.  Or maybe it was the fact that I seem like one of those moms who would pursue due process, and have them pay for my child's private school.

I ended up getting what I needed for my kid, despite that Administrator.  As a matter fact, when I was done, their entire special education department at the high school got turned upside down.  They got a new Department Lead and got rid of a lot of dead weight.  I think we were the first domino that knocked that house of cards down.  Many parents don't have the time and energy I put into our situation.  Their kids end up losing. Which means society as a whole ends up losing.

Back to my fantasy.  Everyone in our commune, including the teachers and administrators are all well trained in autism, Aspergers, anxiety and how individual our children's education plan actually needs to be.

Come on Mr. Katim are you taking notes?  You could at least make this a dream sequence for one of your episodes.

Well, I'm not going to get into the fact that I could slap Joel for being so mad at Julia over what?  A kiss? Really.  You're breaking those kids hearts over a kiss?  That is total crap.

I may or may not be living vicariously through Camille, who has been traveling all over Italy painting, while leaving her needy husband, Zeeke at home.  You go girl! They are obviously growing apart after all of those years of her making sacrifices for everyone else in the family and not paying much attention to her own needs or wants.  No...that's not realistic at all! Hello! that will be me in a few years, if I'm not careful.

But seriously Mr. Katims, and the rest of your producing and writing staff.  Thank you for bringing our kids, our families, autism and Aspergers onto your platform.  I know that those of us in the trenches of the autism community are watching.  We hope that many others are being educated and entertained in the process.

p.s. If you need an Aspergers writing consultant for the show ...I just may be able to squeeze you in to my tight schedule.


~Karen, An Aspergers Mom