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What 'Parenthood' Did for Autism Awareness

This guest post is by Autism Speaks Staffer Kerry Magro. Kerry, an adult with autism, is a national speaker and autism advocate. You can follow Kerry on Facebook and Twitter. This blog orginally appeared on Kerrymagro.com.

In the history of television, I don’t believe our community has ever had as strong a connection to a show as we have had with NBC’s Parenthood. Last week, we saw the series finale after six magnificent and heartfelt seasons on the air. This show tells the story of the Bravermans, a family that consists of grandparents, their four adult children and their growing families. One of the more intriguing characters on the show was Max Braverman, a boy diagnosed early on with Asperger's syndrome, a form of autism.

No other show on national television has ever depicted as realitic a portrayal of a child character with autism before. This show offered us the opportunity to show a national audience each week a new look into the world of autism.. The American public saw what families that have a loved with autism see everyday. Topics such as acceptance, bullying, unique interests, sensory integration, speech, communication and much more were discussed through Max’s character. Later, we’d even be introduced to a character named Hank (played by Ray Romano) that would self-diagnose himself with asperger syndrome.

Jason Katims, the creator of Parenthood, who has a son on the autism spectrum, said it best in an exclusive with The Huffington Post

You know, I've heard so many anecdotal stories about what a positive effect that has had for families and for the autistic community. It actually goes beyond the autistic community to just people who are dealing with various challenges and disabilities. So, of course, that's incredibly rewarding to all of us that the show seems to have had an impact in some way. It's not what we set out to do. We set out to tell stories that were true and personal to us, but the fact that it has seemed to help in some small way is incredibly gratifying.

It became clear very early on that this show wasn’t only a true look into life with autism, but also into many other family issues that happen today, like adoption, single motherhood, a separation and more. Now this show can live on on Netflix, Hulu and all the other streaming websites as one of the best family dramas we’ve seen.

The show ended on a sweet note last week with its series finale highlighting Max's first job as a photographer at his aunt's wedding, as well as his graduation from Chambers Academy. For a majority of the first few seasons, Parenthood showcased many of Max's struggles with autism, but the finale highlighted him coming into his own and overcoming many of the obstacles he's faced. It made for a very sweet (if not tearful) ending to a show many of us have come to love over the last six years. 

So I wanted to say ‘thank you’ to NBC for giving this show a chance to shine. This show gave a voice to our autism community on television. With the prevalence of autism at 1 in 68 today, this show couldn’t have come at a better time to help spread awareness. Autism has certainly become part of the national culture. I truly hope the series Parenthood will open the door for the portrayal of more characters with autism in the future. 

Did you watch 'Parenthood'? Tell us what you'll miss about the show in the comments below!

The Autism Speaks blog features opinions from people throughout the autism community. Each blog represents the point of view of the author and does not necessarily reflect Autism Speaks' beliefs or point of view.