This video is from the TV show, Arthur, which my kids loved when they were younger. The episode does a great job of explaining what Aspergers is to kids in a way they can understand.
I’d like to see more of this in TV shows targeted to children. Come to think of it, we could use more of it in mainstream TV targeted to adults too. The show “Parenthood” has quite a following of LD parents, as well as non-LD parents, who follow along with Max who has Asperger’s Syndrome.
Television is such a powerful medium when it comes to getting messages across to the mainstream public. The disability movement in America got its start after World War II but didn’t get full attention until the Americans with Disabilities Act in 1990.
Disabilities have mostly been absent from television but hopefully that will change on October 27, 2011, when PBS airs, “Lives Worth Living,” a documentary about the disability movement.
By educating parents, teachers, and children about the various differences we all have, it might make for a better society, or at the very least, a better “informed” society where we have empathy for everyone. We have nothing to lose when all of us better understand learning disabilities, and everything to gain.
I also think the schools should spend part of a day teaching kids about learning disabilities that they will no doubt encounter with their peers. Teach them about what an IEP is and why some kids have them. Almost all schools spend some time teaching sex education. The debate isn’t over teaching sex education although there is a huge debate over what “kind” should be taught. Nonetheless, it is an important part of life that everyone will face at some point. The same is true of disabilities.
Not all people have a disability, but the fact is, there are 50 million Americans with some type of disability. Isn’t it worth it to spend part of one day out of twelve grades of school teaching students about it? Understanding why some people have a difficult time with social skills or concentration might solve a few problems or maybe even avert some bullying, now and later in life.
Kids begin life as question marks and exit as exclamation points. They are curious creatures, smart, and willing to learn. What they learn while they’re young, whether from school, television, parents or each other will stay with them for the rest of their lives. We spend so much time teaching to the tests. Isn’t there a little room in the day to teach them about life too?
The Aspergers video from Arthur is just one example of how we can fit life lessons into the daily life of children in a way that is entertaining, yet educational at the same time. TV gets a bad rap but it isn’t always all bad.