Friday, January 17, 2014

Parenthood, Hank, and Adam & Kristina

Hank's storyline on Parenthood is really close to my heart because I have experienced the same situation as an adult finding out about yourself and that there is reason for you to be different and what that difference could be. At this point they do not seem to be going to concrete a diagnosis for Hank, which I find disappointing. I think making it more concrete would be a relief and a lot of fun to have a character diagnosed as an adult. This is something that is happening more often today than it has in the past, based not on increased prevalence, but increased knowledge. I think there are many more adults out there who are autistic, and even more celebrities that are autistic in real life that are just undiagnosed. I like to see them get diagnosed, and put a face to the reorder of the brain that is aspergers/autism.

There have been few scenes involving Adam and Kristina, the parents of Max who has aspergers. They have thought it has been great that Max has a place to go, and those brief interactions have been pretty nice to see. After Max's meltdown over a broken promise, Adam is thoughtful enough to hand Hank a book on aspergers in hopes that it will help Hank understand Max. What Hank ends up finding is himself, and the following scenes have been brief but pretty special.

In one scene Adam and Kristina talk about Hank possibly having aspergers being a window into what kind of life Max might have. Mindblowing as it may seem to people who don't have any experience with aspergers, but we can, and do, live successful lives with spouses, children and even jobs. We aren't the party hardy ones, but we are out there living normal, successful (at least in our eyes) lives, and we're pretty okay with what we've got. That was a pretty good scene because yes, it does happen and yes, we have positive futures!

In another series of scenes, Adam tries to include Hank in something, and I think it was rooted in the idea of getting to know more about Hank, and more about what kind of thoughts and life he has as an adult who might possibly be similar to his own son. Even strongly defending Hank to his brother Crosby, who calls him a freak and thinks its weird and wrong to include him. Believe me, this happens more than you would think, even in adult life, where when we're just a little weird, we're excluded and left on the outside because of that weirdness. It isn't fair, but it happens all the time, and honestly we'd rather be alone and not social than deal with that mess. When Hank seems to make it difficult, he's just defending his comfort in what they were doing, and the idea that he shouldn't have to change "for fun" - believe me change isn't fun, especially changing rules because rules aren't supposed to change! However, that being said, if someone had said to him in the beginning that there would be a rule change at some point during the night, he may have been more prepared.

In addition, Hank takes what happens and misunderstands most of it, thinking that it was all his fault, and Adam did a great job of just calming it down and saying no man, it's not you to blame for everything and that it was okay to feel that way. Adam was great through that whole scene. Obviously, taking aspergers into consideration for who you are talking to, you automatically understand the limitations or feelings of a person, and you respond accordingly, unlike everyone else who was responding treating Hank like a normal person, who would purposely try to ruin the fun. In Adam's mind, it was entirely different, and it made him look like a very kind person and an ally that Hank can trust. But, too, this is Adam's kid's "future", hypothetically, so he feels a great connection to defending Hank because he feels as if he knows more now about where Hank is coming from in the light of aspergers, just as he knows his own son and where he is coming from through the light of aspergers.

In life we make excuses for people when they are rude, or having a hard time. We understand when they are feeling badly because of job issues, or marriage issues, or exhaustion, or illness. We are sensitive to them when they are going through depression or loss. We are kind and helpful to them when they are going through a major illness or injury or when they are hurting from something. People don't often take those same considerations for others when there is no apparent cause for their behavior. 

We have to face the facts here: most adults with aspergers are undiagnosed, don't even realize they may be autistic and aren't looking for any diagnosis, and even some that are diagnosed aren't sharing that information with the entire world. When you encounter someone who is difficult, its highly likely that they are not just trying to be a jerk. However, in our frustration and anger, instead of trying to understand and help each other, we fly off the handle thinking we know the other person's intentions were negative and we have to respond in anger and such because we don't put up with that kind of treatment. When was the last time we ever stopped to consider that maybe the other person wasn't doing something on purpose, but had a legitimate reason or even misunderstanding for what they did or said? 

That person who told you that your haircut made your face look f at; maybe they weren't trying to tell you how ugly you were (which is how that would easily be interpreted - lets be honest, mostly by women) but they were trying to be honest with you? Aspies are notoriously honest, and if you're fishing for compliments sometimes you have to be up front with that instead of wanting an honest answer. Don't ask for honesty if you can't handle it. And that's just one example of what kinds of things aspies might do. 

I'm not saying all people who seem like jerks aren't really jerks, but honestly, I think we need to give people the benefit of the doubt sometimes, and think before we respond. We aren't responsible for what others do to us, but we are responsible for what we do to them. 

Anyway, it may seem crazy how I got to the end from where I began, but I really love how the character of Adam is playing this story and I hope to see much more of this.

Parenthood Does It Again!

So, have I mentioned that Parenthood is the best show on television right now, possibly ever?
Hank's discovery a couple weeks ago on Parenthood is really rocking my world this season. However, I saw this coming from the first time his character opened his mouth. It's been love from first sight. 

I had promised myself I wasn't getting into another show when I was told that one of the characters, Max, has aspergers. That fact alone sucked me in and here I am loving season 5 so much that it hurts.

They are wrapping a possible undiagnosed adult into Max's storyline. Hank's discovery (video link above) was totally awesome. I felt every word because I've said them to myself. I've felt the amazing "I can't sleep because I'm finally finding a place where I'm reading about myself" feeling. They just can't stop with this storyline either, as the weeks after that episode they have topped themselves with more of the same with this character. I can't get enough. The entire show could be about Hank and Max and I would be completely satisfied.

Last night's episode brought Hank even visiting Max's doctor, who gives him an answer of "Jump Ball". Meaning, it could go either way. I don't agree, I think aspergers is definitely Hank's ball. 

Parenthood's own website links to a blog post from the "experts". The posts involved have been disappointing. Although the writer is supposedly an expert in the field, they are using technique used to diagnose a child on an adult, and that just doesn't fly. I signed up for tumblr because I had to respond. 

You can't use the same mentality to diagnose an adult that you do a child. One of the major "holes" mentioned is that Hank doesn't seem to have the major social issues that Max has. I might not have an MD, but I could give you the reason for that one without even thinking about it. It's the same reason that I don't appear to have aspergers, socially, and I had many friends who told me that I am "too social" to be truly autistic. Adults are better at almost anything than kids are based on experience alone. To say that Hank doesn't have aspergers based on his social experiences is to say that a professional poker player never struggled with the game. To me, socializing is a game. In my 31 years of life, I've learned to play the game. I'm very aware of things like eye contact, or listening to see if there's emotional context. You can't do something for 30 years and not learn the rules and how to play. Though it is a spectrum and some of us do better than others based on various factors such as opportunity, family life, level of bullying vs friendships, for the most part, any autistic person of 30 years (or, as in Hank's case, 50) would have by now LONG since developed tools and abilities to become social enough to get by. Sure, we might not be breaking down doors at political events and hosting huge parties, but we can make it through day to day life without being a total hermit. 

The criteria used to say that Hank doesn't have aspergers only goes to show the level of inexperience that the author has with real adult autistics. I'm betting good money on the fact that they don't diagnose adults often, if ever, and they also probably believe that autism is "on the rise" and a "new condition" stemming from this or that - pick your conspiracy. 
However, I disagree on both counts, because there are many people who fully believe that there were autistic people many years ago, and although we won't meet those people and test them based on our criteria, I don't find aspergers that difficult of a thing to find. I see people all the time who could fully qualify from my outside perspecive, (which makes me wonder what the inside perspective is)!

 There are so many brilliant minds that lived before us, and got us to where we are now, and our lives wouldn't be the same without their help and inspiration and focus and determination. In order to succeed, you have to fail a million times. NT people would likely give up after a while, but autistics have the drive and, to put it plainly, obsession to keep trying despite the floor being covered with mistakes. More extroverted or social people would take longer to succeed because they would get bored and lonely after a while, and leave their work behind for more "exciting" interaction. Autistic people have just the skills (or, lack of skills?) to focus tirelessly on their work. Descriptions of them were that they were a little weird anyway, but we hail them as genius because of what their gifts gave us, gifts that likely came from the fact that they were a little weird, a little far off the deep end, a little autistic. 

I realize I'm using "assumed" positions to reason my thoughts here, but honestly, as I've said before, even the lady who did my testing didn't believe that I had aspergers. No one I knew believed me (excepting my mother, who had a very similar discovery to Hank, only about me and not herself). And they were all wrong. 

Far be it from me to even suggest that a "professional" might be wrong, but from what we know of Hank already, and the way that he is portrayed and written so far, he has more than enough qualifications to be autistic. I feel that it's a bit insulting for there to be any connection to any "professional" who makes such claims that suggest that an adult autistic would be much more socially inept, and would have a harder time. Again, if you learn to play poker, you are going to be pretty good at it after a year, and even more so after 50 years. Give Hank some credit as a character. He's not doing well because he's not truly autistic, he's doing well because any of us can learn to play the social game after decades of playing it. Don't dumb us down and call us uneducated just because your "professional" opinion thinks we should be social retards our whole lives. We aren't unable to learn. We aren't brain dead. Don't sit there and tell us how we should act or be as adult aspies. And don't you dare think for one minute you know more about adult aspies than US. WE are adult aspies, and WE know what we are like. You, sir, do not, and you make that quite clear.

My next post (which I will probably write right after this) will be about Adam and Kristina's characters and their little scenes relating to this Hank story.