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‘Parenthood’ Show Creator Talks About Who Inspired Character With Autism

On Thursday, Sept. 25, the sixth and final season of NBC’s “Parenthood” premiered. If you’re unfamiliar with the show, it follows an extended family — the Bravermans — through their ordinary but often challenging lives. The show’s been praised on all ends — its cast and script are excellent. But it’s also been notably lauded for accurately portraying a character with Asperger’s syndrome, an autism spectrum disorder.

Perfectly anaylyzing this is BuzzFeed’s Emily Orley, who — in her excellent feature — reveals that the character with Aspergers, Max Braverman (played by Max Burkholder), is based off the son of show creator, Jason Katims. He told BuzzFeed News:

I didn’t know that we could do it because there weren’t any shows or movies that told the story of a kid with Asperger’s. I was worried. Would everybody reject it? Like, This doesn’t relate to me. It’s depressing. Would it just be a point of people turning away from the show? And would we be able to do a good job telling the story, representing in some way what the experience is really like for a family dealing with this? And I didn’t know the answer to that.

Don’t miss the full BuzzFeed News feature here.

In its six seasons, the response to Katims and his team’s portrayal of autism has been largely positive. In 2010, Burkholder, who plays Max, told Disability Scoop that a girl with Asperger’s syndrome wrote him a letter applauding his performance. More recently, Psychology Today columnist and clinical psychologist, Mike Friedman, wrote:

By shining a light on the struggles of people with Aspergers and their families, ‘Parenthood’ continues to clear away the stigma of Aspergers so that more and more people understand the issue and root for people like Max… to lead full and healthy lives.