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NBC's 'Parenthood' Tackles Adding a Dog to the Family

In NBC's Parenthood episode 'Left Field,' the Braverman's wrestle with the idea of getting a dog for Max. Kristina is really more into than Adam as a result of missing Haddie, who recently went to college, and the benefits pets have for those affected by autism. You can watch the full episode here.

Do you have any pets? How do you or your child relate to the animal? Is having a pet a good decision for your family?

You can search our Resource Guide under 'Local Resources' for information in your area.

Find out what Sheila Wagner, M. Ed., has to say on the subject in Parenthood's 'The Experts Speak' column.

Puppies and kids. Is there any mental picture that is more endearing to a family? How many holiday cards do we receive from family and friends that include the family pet? Duh - nearly all of them, of course! Every child in the world wants a pet to hug, chase, and feed yucky vegetables to under the table. A pet to sleep on the bed to protect them at night. Monsters never again emerge from the closet and spooky sounds in the night are no longer worrisome. Pets provide unlimited love and never judge or bully you; all the evils a child fears are more easily conquered when he or she has a warm, furry friend to snuggle up to. Pets are an important part of growing up, and, truth be told, an essential part of life for many adults as well. For me, it's cats; I now have two. But I grew up with dogs, cats, horses and parakeets (though I have to admit that the parakeets had a less-than-ideal life in a house filled with cats).

In this episode of Parenthood, an inadvertent slip of the tongue has Max hyped up and excited about getting a dog. As would be predicted with someone with Asperger's, Max has taken control - picking out the exact dog he wants and the date and time he should go get it. He doesn't consider what his parents must: the expense and commitment that goes along with owning a pet. Max only knows that since he has made the decision to have a pet, it must happen exactly as he predicts. When reality sets in and Max is denied the particular dog he wants, he becomes very upset and cannot appreciate that spending $1200.00 for a dog is WAY too much and that the family can't afford it. Max's subsequent 45-minute outburst clearly demonstrates his single-minded approach, lack of understanding of the big picture and his dogged commitment to never giving up. But Max is very bright and should be able to understand why he can't have the $1200.00 dog, correct? Nope, not when you are considering Asperger's syndrome.

Adam and Kristina now have the task that all parents of children with autism spectrum face. They must teach Max that his opinion does indeed count, that he can contribute to the family. But they also must teach him how a family works. That decisions affecting the entire family have to be weighed carefully, and that often, factors beyond control influence the decision-making process.

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For more information on services dogs visit Autism Service Dogs of America and Paws for Ability.