Monday, August 14, 2017

Atypical Review

I haven't watched the entire series but I've watched 5 out of 8 episodes.

Atypical is about an 18 year old high school senior who is interested in dating and his family.  The show is not for families with young children.  It's a show more for older teenagers and adults because there is adult language and adult topics.

I like the family dynamics. It's real and raw. Sam, the character at the center of the show, has a younger sister.  She has to deal with the fall out of having an older autistic brother.  Sam's father, we also discover, had a harder time dealing with Sam's diagnosis.  But he's trying.  Sam's mother is over protective.

Sam has friends who care about him.  They are neurotypicals but have their own quarks.  And they try to help Sam.

The support group that Sam's mother goes to is an exaggeration of some aspects of the autism community.  They expect to use people first language (which really is up to the individual person because some prefer being called autistic) for example.

Sam is a well shaped character.  He shows some aspects of what it's like to live on the spectrum such as sensory sensitivity, confusion over why he's being bullied but knowing that he is, and not understanding idiomatic language.

The affair Sam's mother has doesn't seem to make sense with the plot.  Sam's mother is beginning to realize that she's not as much needed so she starts having an affair?  The other scenes where she gets in the face of department store sales woman and how she despises Sam's therapist for helping Sam be more independent make sense.  But the affair seems to be taking the show in a direction away from light heartedness and yet realness of autism and more into a mom drama.

Likewise I'm not sure why we need to know so much about the therapist's relationship as a sub-plot. It may help for Sam to have an example of dating (although living with your boyfriend isn't a good one).  But other than that I don't really see the relevance. 

There's a bit of confusion for me with Sam about money.  In the first episode Sam is seen riding a public bus back from therapy.  Don't buses require you to use money or a bus pass?  And then later on we see that Sam's sister has to give him his lunch money every day.  So my question is this: is Sam having a difficult time with money or not?  What's the difficulty?  At school, my children don't have to deal with money for lunch.  They have lunch cards and you can deposit money electronically through an online website.  There's no need for checks or cash.  Furthermore if Sam has an IEP, which I assume that he does, why isn't his mother insisting that his lunch money be handled by the lunch staff or the office staff per an IEP?  Why is it that Sam's younger sister has to do this for him instead of the school staff?  I just have difficulty believing that this isn't possible.  And I have difficulty believing that Sam's overprotective mother hasn't been forcing the hand of the school to make some sort of accommodation.  It's just poor writing.

The other thing that I noticed is this: Sam's mother is a hair dresser, Sam's father is an EMT, Sam gets therapy but he does have a part time job at an electronic store. Okay. How do they afford a large house in the suburbs?  We've seen shots of the exterior of the house and the interior of the house and it's a nice two story house.  It's more realistic to depict Sam's family as being lower middle class to working poor given what kinds of income his mother and father probably make.  Instead we see them living in a house that would be a bit out of their income range and it's not really explained why.  Sam's sister does say that the downstairs toilet is messed up and she's in need of a scholarship in order to attend a top private school.  So we know that they do have money constraints.  It just doesn't show up in how they live, which is a large house in the suburbs.

It also bothers me that we don't see anyone else on the spectrum.  Just in my daily life I've met many people who are autistic of various age groups before and since my son's diagnosis.  The other thing is I don't like the use of high-functioning versus low-functioning.  It's a weird distinction.  I would say compared to Sam, my son is far more higher functioning.  At age 7 he's already working on social skills that Sam is only just now seeming to understand.  Likewise you can have a very social autistic who doesn't speak and would be classified as low-functioning.  You can also have children who are called autistic but have other disorders to contend with.  It's more like a pin wheel of color and it's confusing (if not pigeon holing) to say that autistics fit into groups of high versus low functioning.  It would make more sense to say things like verbal versus non-verbal or very sensory sensitive versus not so much. 

What I would like to see:
Other characters on the spectrum because being autistic is just as diverse as being neurotypical.

More of Sam: I feel like there are too many sub-plots related to other characters who are not Sam and yet Sam is the focus of the show.  It's confusing.

More of the school: Sam is a senior yet we barely see any of the school staff during the show.  In one scene Sam hides in the chemistry lab and a friend can't find him.  So the friend calls Sam's sister.  Why isn't the friend alerting the school staff especially if Sam is a potential flight risk?  It doesn't really show if the school is inept or actually really awesome about dealing with Sam's disability.

More of Sam's work: So far we've seen Sam interact with his close friend and co-worker and there's one scene with his boss.  What about his interactions with other co-workers or clients?  How is working at the tech store good for Sam?  We are told that Sam actually studied the store before he landed the job.  So did that contribute to him landing the job there?  I'm so puzzled about Sam's job.

More about therapy for Sam: We know that Sam has had a lot of therapy in the past. And now he essentially speaks to a psychologist.  Can we learn about his past therapy and more about replacement behaviors?

Does Sam have a community for support?: We know that Sam's mom attends a support group for parents, but there are likewise support groups or just groups in general for those on the spectrum.  Has Sam explored them?  Does he have autistic friends?

The show has a lot of potential and it's headed in sort of the right direction, but it could use some improving.  Overall I would say it's good and worth watching with the potential to become great.

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