My son's current favorite television show is called "Dino Squad", about a group of kids who can turn into dinosaurs (I think it was on 2008-2009, but we have Netflix and that's how we watch most of our television, which admittedly isn't much).
The other day, he was watching one of the episodes while I was cooking dinner. And as I was chopping carrots, I heard this robotic monotone voice saying over and over again, "sugar sucrose glucose high fructose corn syrup ..."
So I had to go see what on earth was going on. Turned out it was this character named Liam, who appeared in the first episode of the second season. And he had Asperger's Syndrome.
Now, the writers/creators of this show made Liam a positive character. He helps save the day. And the wise adults on the show explain a few things about Asperger's to the main characters, who end up being nice to him and sitting with him at lunch.
But, in my opinion, the portrayal of Liam is a really mixed bag. His exaggeratedly odd prosody (the rhythm and intonation of speech) and constant repetitive hand movements left me feeling like the writers might have been relying on stereotypes of individuals on the autism spectrum.
You can watch a clip of Liam in action here.
You tell me--is this a good way to teach children about developmental and emotional disorders and differences? Does this trade-off often occur in kids' television--including characters with these disorders but making their presentation so exaggerated or stereotyped or oversimplified that it possibly leads to a Rain Man sort of expectation (i.e., all people diagnosed with autism will behave like that character)? For those of you with kids, where have you seen this done well? Where have you seen in done poorly?
And be sure to check out Lydia's gruesome yet fascinating Medical Monday post, as well as Laura's Mental Health Monday post (which is only a tidbit today because she's moving, but get on over there and wish her well)!