Global News

December 28, 2012

Characters with autism getting prime spots on major TV series

NICK PATCH  |  The Canadian Press

When Parenthood creator Jason Katims created the character Max Braverman – an intelligent, inscrutable, insect-obsessed youngster with Asperger’s – he had in mind his own son, Sawyer, who was similarly diagnosed.

But while many are absorbed in the travails of the mop-topped Max on the generously open-hearted family TV drama, Katims’s own teenaged son isn’t among them.

“Everybody else in the family watches it but he doesn’t,” the Emmy Award-winner said in a recent telephone interview, chuckling softly.

Fortunately for Katims, millions of other people are playing close attention – particularly those with a loved one on the autism spectrum.

And those numbers are growing. One in 88 American children has an Autism Spectrum Disorder (ASD) according to the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and – while no federal monitoring system exists in Canada to provide a similar rate of prevalence – ASD is the most common childhood neurological disorder or severe developmental disability here. (A controversial decision was recently made to fold Asperger syndrome, a type of high-functioning autism, into an umbrella diagnosis for autism spectrum disorder, but the families interviewed for this story largely used the terms interchangeably.)

Television can often be painstakingly slow to adapt to such shifts in demographics. But it’s clear that some of the challenges faced by the autistic population have captured the imagination of TV writers, who are increasingly penning eccentric characters whose quirks would seem to align with typical characteristics of ASD on shows including The Big Bang Theory and Bones.


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