“Some people may say having Asperger’s is bad, but I think it’s my best quality.”
At KIT, we’ve written before about Parenthood, the show that taught us all about the stresses and joys of having a child with Asperger’s (among other stories within the show). I, myself, had never seen the show before, and I have just recently started watching it from start to finish on Netflix. I have to say, I am obsessed. This weekend, I watched Season 4, Episode 6, when Max (a middle schooler with Asperger’s) is running for student body president, and it is the best episode I have seen yet.
Max began middle school a few months earlier, ecstatic that he could finally use the vending machine that his older sister and cousins had been able to use. On the first day of school, though, he was outraged to find out that the vending machine had been removed. Max’s Asperger’s made it difficult for him to accept this injustice, so he instead did something about it. He ran for president of his school, taking the initiative to ask for signatures on a petition to run for president. To do so, he had to look those students in the eye, introduce himself to them, and ask for their support– no easy feat for someone who has Asperger’s.
The idea of running for president was, in fact, so daunting that his parents encouraged him not to. But he was persistent, and he chose to continue fighting for vending machine justice. Max then had to deliver a speech to his classmates to earn their votes. And boy, was this speech eloquent and moving. (Unfortunately, due to what I assume are copyright laws, I was unable to find a video of the speech to post here. However, if you have Netflix, you can find the video at 32:33 in Season 4, Episode 6 of Parenthood.)
In his speech, Max simply states that he wants to be president because he will bring back the vending machines. As he looks around and realizes that his classmates are expecting him to say more, Max begins to elaborate. He describes what it means to have Asperger’s and what challenges he experiences every day, including having difficulty making eye contact or saying hello. But he also articulates the things about Asperger’s that make him an excellent candidate for president– he has a good memory, he never gives up, he will always keep his promises, and others. Max ends his speech with what we all would love to hear our kiddos with disabilities say: “I think Asperger’s is my best quality.” He owns his identity and is proud of it. Max is able to see his strengths as someone whose life has been shaped by Asperger’s.
I want to make sure all of my students see the value in their disability– the positive effects of the way that they see the world. It is not just the nice thing to do– it is my moral responsibility as a special educator. It is not always easy, but let’s all commit to helping others, especially those with disabilities, see the good in themselves, especially if that good stems from their disability.
And if you haven’t watched Parenthood, I highly encourage it. Get your tissues ready!
— Written by Elise, KIT Blog Editor
Kids Included Together (KIT) is a non-profit located in San Diego, CA and Washington, DC. We help make the world a more inclusive place by providing live and online training to people who work with kids. We teach strategies, accommodations and best practices to include kids with and without disabilities in before & after school programs. Inclusive environments create stronger communities. Learn more about our work at www.KITonline.org.