MTV, ASD, and Extraordinary People

keep-calm-because-you-are-extraordinaryAlthough Autism Awareness Month ended 2 days ago, we agree with our partners at Easter Seals Rockford Center that “Every day is autism awareness day.” Recently we discovered that MTV has produced a “True Life” documentary that features two young adult brothers, Brad and Kenny Benjamin, who just happen to have autism spectrum disorder (ASD). Although we often question the “reality” portion of so-called realty television, this program provides a rare opportunity for viewers to see that people with ASD are people first – while communication and social interaction may be difficult for many, they have dreams and hopes as well as fears and challenges just like people without ASD.

Brad and Kenny were diagnosed under the terms of DSM-IV, so Kenny has a diagnosis of Asperger’s disorder while Brad has a diagnosis of autism. Under DSM-5, the diagnosis for both of them would be ASD. The opportunity to see two brothers with ASD, only a year apart in age, allows viewers to observe the unique personalities and qualities of each. ASD is a spectrum disorder, and impacts every individual differently.

You can see the trailer for the show and a brief interview with Brad and Kenny’s parents here. The full program is scheduled to air on MTV again on May 6 at 2:30 p.m. Illinois time.

Another view of life with brothers who have ASD can be seen on a TED@London presentation by writer Faith Jegede. Faith gave a short presentation in 2012 titled “What I’ve learned from my autistic brothers.” While we might not like the title (we would prefer “my brothers who have ASD” or even just “my brothers”) she presents a positive and empowering way to look at ASD. She reminds us that we can look at any individual and evaluate their shortcomings and challenges, or we can choose to see their special qualities. Perhaps we should all consider Faith’s conclusion about her brothers – because to many “they were not seen as ordinary, this could only mean one thing: that they were extraordinary.”

Faith’s Ted@London talk can be viewed here.

Russell J. Bonanno, M.Ed.
TAP Program Manager

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