Atypical

I've found that a key marker of a good book is one where eager anticipation of what is to come supersedes schedules, priorities, and healthy sleep habits.  This may also the marker of a good TV show.  One where you are itching to find out what happens next, wide awake despite the late hour, and feel paralyzed when the screen casually rolls into the next episode and you agreeably, willingly follow along.

This is Atypical.  While I was sad that it was only 8 episodes, this show is well rounded, and on the whole, an insightful and heartwarming comedy about one individual's life in high school with autism. Meet Sam Gardner, a quirky, Antarctic obsessed high school senior with high functioning autism.  The show invites us into Sam's little world, giving the viewer insight into how he thinks, what he feels, and how certain situations downright frustrate him and why. In addition to navigating the daily challenges of high school life, Sam triumphantly decides that he is ready to start dating and acquire a girlfriend.  However, this turns out more challenging than his research suggests, and Sam finds himself completely unequipped and perplexed on how to date.

The cast is excellent, Bridgette Lundy-Paine shines as Sam's blunt, often abrasive younger sister Casey, who is equally annoyed and protective of her older brother.  Sam's dad, Doug, is earnest, frank, and likable.  As the show develops, we learn how he's struggled to connect meaningfully with his son, having attempted many times, only to be rebuffed as his efforts - while genuine - did not resonate with Sam. As the show unfolds, they soon turn a corner as Sam begins to see his dad as the most suitable candidate to dole out advice on how to get a girlfriend.  With this shift of parental involvement and trust, Sam's mom, Elsa, (played by Jennifer Jason Leigh, my least favorite character in the series) finds herself in the throws of a mid-life crisis as she struggles to understand her identity apart from being Sam's advocate and mom.  The cast is well rounded with strong supporting characters such as Sam's friend Zahid, his friend and co-worker at the electronics store is ever present with string of cheesy one-liners and sage advice to pick up girls.  Also likable is Casey's persistent friend turned love interest, Evan, who wears her down with his affable, stoner charm.

While I recognize that this show doesn't even begin to scratch the surface of what it is like to live with autism, I think it's a good place to begin a dialogue about autism and educate oneself.  Having worked in the public school system as a paraeducator and teacher for many years, I myself have taught many students on the autism spectrum,  and while it is important to note that while no two students with autism are the same, I recognize attributes, language, and mannerisms of former students in Sam.  I was pleasantly surprised at how heartwarming the story is, while being sensitive to the challenges that may come with parenting, and being a friend, and sibling to a child with atypical needs.  

If you haven't yet, go check out Atypical.  It's worth a watch!

This post is part of my partnership with Netflix where I share what my family and I are watching each month on our favorite streaming platform. All thoughts and opinions are my own.  #StreamTeam

image/netflix
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