Friday, February 17, 2012

Art for Autistic Adolescent

NBC Show Parenthood Focuses on Asperger's Syndrome
by Miriam Schulman, @schulmanArt

Parents embrace their son's obsession by decorating room with bug art
This year I became involved with the television show Parenthood after they purchased an original artwork for their permanent set.  I wasn't told when the episode would air that included my art nor which set the mosquito painting was destined for. Week after week I watched the show, wondering which character would like the art. Would the brothers who opened and renovated a music studio use my green and gold artwork in their olive green studios? Would the young woman who got a new apartment hang it on her walls? Perhaps the artist grandmother would "paint" my picture. 

As the episodes wore on. I learned that one of the most fascinating characters on the show, Max, had Aspergers. This is very unusual for a "sitcom" to focus on a child with bad social skills. Usually they focus on the popular students doing regular mainstream activities. I really enjoyed this aspect of the show and when I learned his obsession was with insects I felt my art was destined for his room. Still, I had not found my piece and was left wondering if perhaps they did not use my art after all. Since they had purchased the art last July and I had been watching since September I had nearly given up but was still enjoying the plot and realistic characters that the show focuses on. 

Mosquito Deity was part of a series of insect art
In an episode that aired February 14th, Max is picked last for a basketball game in gym. I remember that feeling of being picked last or close to last during recess in elementary school. I was surprised these popularity contests still go on in schools-- and yet pleased that NBC writers did not sugarcoat an all to familiar situation. The gym coach does nothing to alleviate this "acceptable" form of bullying. Then when Max goes to the sidelines, we learn that another disabled kid's needs are also neglected. Could the gym teacher have handled this differently? Why was the boy in the wheelchair not engaged during gym? Could he have been used as a referee or score keeper?

Mosquito deity, 16x20" collected by NBC for Parenthood set design
Later, in Max's room we learn that the gym teacher will let Max skip class if the parents provide a  note. This is pure laziness on the school's part to not want to deal with a bullying issue or make accommodations for children with special needs.  Watch the episode and let me know what you think! And while the father talks to his son, you can look at my art which I spotted just over the actor's shoulder.

You can purchase a print of this Mosquito Deity for your own child. 

Kids with special needs or autism need understanding, not "fixing".