Autism & Asperger’s on Disney’s Girl Meets World

If I had my way, my family would only watch 2 hours of TV per week. We watch more than that, but we’re picky about the shows, especially for our 6 year old. Even on the channels we’ve always trusted, some of the shows are full of sass and even border on bullying sometimes. One show consistently gets it right, though, so we watch religiously as a family.

Girl Meets World, the sequel to Boy Meets World, features the real life,  grown-up Cory Matthews and Topanga Lawrence as the supportive and down-to-earth parents of an adorably quirky adolescent daughter, Riley. The show spotlights issues and topics that kids and families face in daily life- divorced or absent parents, materialism, fitting in, honesty, friendship, responsibility and growing up in general. The most recent episode, which aired on September 11, tackled a topic that most shows would shy away from- Autism and Asperger’s Syndrome- in an authentic way and succeeded in sending the best message possible.

GirlMeetsWorldCastPhoto

One of Riley’s three best friends, Farkle (the son of Stuart Minkus, in case you watched BMW!) is a lovable genius. He’s also a bit socially awkward and outspoken and sometimes misses social cues. In my new favorite episode, Farkle goes through a series of tests after his genius confirmation and is nervous about a possible Asperger’s diagnosis. While Farkle, the guidance counselor, and teacher (Cory Matthew, of course!) offer information about Asperger’s and Autism Spectrum Disorders (ASD), at no point does anyone send the message that there is something wrong with someone with either diagnosis. Ultimately, it’s revealed that another character (Isadora Smackle) does have Asperger’s and the friends realize the label doesn’t matter as much as they thought it would.

While any diagnosis can be worrisome for a parent or child, and nobody can deny the challenges faced by children and adults with ASD, it’s refreshing and necessary to realize that “normal” doesn’t need to be the goal. Although we have lots of sensory issues in my family, I’m not the mother of an autistic child. I just know how I want my children treated and how I want them to treat others. When even the most well-known Autism advocacy organization seems to be getting it wrong, it’s really nice to see a family TV show get it right!

To quote Riley Matthews, “Who wants to be normal?”

Nobody raise their hand.


 

MSTK bio picMelissa Kaye is a Boston-based green living expert, writer, radio personality, food safety advocate, mom, and wife. She is currently working her way through grief and learning how to live without her would-be 10 year old son, Joshua, who died July 7, 2014 of E. Coli. With her husband and two daughters, she has founded Joshua Kaye Foundation, which will honor what was important to Josh- community, fairness and animal welfare. 

Connect with Melissa at mommybusiness.net or on Twitter @mstkaye and @mommybiz7. 

My Daughter Asks Why ‘American Idol’ Contestants Are Judged on Their Looks

It is Saturday night, so I let the kids stay up a little later. We were all kind of lazy and didn’t feel like playing a game so we thought we might watch a movie. It was past 8:30 and too late to start a movie, so I decided to check out the DVR to see what we had waiting for us.

We had a few American Idol shows recorded and none watched. Although American Idol is a great family friendly show, it is rated PG and makes me cringe…a lot. Not sure why most shows have to go over the line with swearing and topics (spoke of virginity with one of the guests on the show we watched tonight) and lots of bleeps and hell, and “fricken” (hate that word). I don’t need my 7 year old walking into school Monday saying this “fricken sucks” because he heard it on tv!

Back to our night- we have a nice fire in the fireplace, snuggled in our pjs and warm blankets watching the audition shows of American Idol. I keep hearing my 9 year old daughter saying something under her breath. I didn’t know what she was saying and kind of ignored her because it is nearly impossible to watch anything with four kids, two dogs, two loud gerbils running on wheels and my guinea pig squealing for attention. Everyone talks, or jokes, or laughs and I CAN’T HEAR the show. So I ignored her. A few times.

Microphone American Idol post

Finally I hear her crystal clear saying “why do the judges keep mentioning what they look like?”. I pause the show and ask her what she is talking about. She is seriously angry that the judges keep talking about contestants’ smiles, hair, legs, body, booties, total package and looks over all. “Why does it matter what these people look like when this is a singing competition?”

Oh, how I love to hear this. I must be doing something right. I have worked SO HARD to not mention how unhappy I am with my looks. I have been overweight since the sperm hit the egg with kid number one and that was 13 years ago. I got bigger with each one and now cannot lose it. I want to complain all of the time. But I don’t- Ever. We don’t say the word fat. We don’t say ugly, I don’t discuss size or weight. I never speak badly about myself or anybody else. When the conversation starts to head in that direction with others, I try and steer it in a healthier direction.

We do speak of eating healthy, bathing, brushing and flossing, why I wear makeup, why women shave and men don’t in the United States. We do speak of strong, healthy, talented people. We speak of following your dreams and not being afraid to try new things. We focus on the positive and eliminate negativity where ever possible.

I did hear her speak negatively about herself once. With a friend, she said something about not liking her hair. After the friend left I asked her about it. She told me she really does like her hair but all of the girls say negative things about themselves so she tried to think of something she could say and her hair was all she could think of. We spoke about lying, being negative and not being true to yourself. I haven’t heard anything like that again.

Who knows what the future holds, but her strong opinion tonight made me feel so good about how she feels now. She was disgusted that these judges were paying attention to the way people looked instead of just focusing on how they sound. She really understands that judging people based on looks doesn’t make any sense. It is such a simple concept, isn’t it? A singing contest should have fabulous singers. Now, how do we tell the judges?!

*Image used is from Shutterstock.com

6 Reasons I Love That My Kids Watch My Little Pony

Last year, when my son discovered My Little Pony on TV and sat with his sister, staring starry eyed at the screen, mesmerized, my husband was less than thrilled. We both have a pretty low tolerance for crappy kids shows, and he assumed that MLP fell into that category. I’ll be honest (as always)- at first glance, it seems like fluff. The big eyed, sickeningly sweet-voiced, dramatic cartoon would not have gotten approval from me had I not overheard an episode while shooting off an email.

This show has more substance than pretty pastels! Each episode seeks to leave their little viewers a bit wiser and empowered than they were a half hour earlier. These feisty little fillies focus on big ideas and they hammer home their messages in a way that resonates with kids.

6 Lessons To Be Learned from My Little Ponies:

My Little Ponies!

My Little Ponies!

Acceptance/Embracing Differences
Self confidence
The importance of Honesty
Compassion
Problem solving
True, Supportive Friendship

So, as much as I like to minimize TV time (and I prefer PBS), I have to admit that I’m a fan of My Little Ponies.