A few years ago, my wife sampled an NBC drama called Parenthood and was transfixed by a character named Max Braverman, a smart, sweet, socially awkward teenager who both facinates and frustrates his anxioius parents. He reminded Lori of our son Tyler. "Watch the show," she told me.
I did, and that simple moment started us down a path toward a diagnosis for Asperger's syndrome, a form of autism that hinders social interaction, and to Lori's heroic efforts on behalf of our son. Her plan included father-son trips (I called them "guilt trips") to U.S. historical sites, visits with two presidents and an article on the experience published today in the National Journal magazine.
Then all hell broke loose. Lori called it "another Max Braverman moment" — the outpouring of emotional reaction to the piece, unlike anything I've experienced as a reporter covering the White House and presidential campaigns. "Tyler struck a chord," she said. (One thing you should know about Lori: She's always right.)
The reaction via tweets, emails and telephone calls breaks down into five categories.
First, a true Max Braverman moment — that is, people who recognized themselves or a loved one in Tyler. "OMG," read an e-mail from an Iowa school teacher who asked me not to disclose her identity to protect her son's privacy, "Zack is Tyler. Tyler is Zack. Like your brave and smart wife, I've wondered what I could do for him. Now I know to get him tested. Thank you for sharing."