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Autism Speaks Executive To Appear On NBC’s ‘Parenthood’

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A top official at Autism Speaks is set to appear on an upcoming episode of NBC’s “Parenthood” in which characters in the show participate in a fund-raising walk for the organization.

Peter Bell, executive vice president at Autism Speaks, is scheduled to appear on an episode of the one hour drama in mid-May. Bell was invited to appear as a representative of the organization during a scene depicting an Autism Speaks walk to raise funds.

Autism is a significant part of the storyline on “Parenthood,” which features a family dealing with their son’s diagnosis of Asperger’s syndrome. In recent episodes parents Adam and Kristina Braverman (Peter Krause and Monica Potter) struggled to find an appropriate school for their son Max (Max Burkholder, pictured with Bell) and learned to manage his behavior issues.

The Asperger’s storyline on “Parenthood” reportedly hearkens from the personal experiences of Jason Katims, the show’s executive producer, who has a 13-year-old son with the diagnosis.

Bell has a speaking part on the show where he interacts with the fictional Braverman family and also talks to the crowd gathered for the walk, much like Autism Speaks representatives do at the organization’s 80 walks across the country. In addition to Bell’s cameo, Autism Speaks provided signage and other materials to give the scene a realistic feel.

“I was very impressed with how real it felt,” says Bell of the shoot last week in Los Angeles.

Though the scene is brief, Bell said he spent more than five hours on set doing various takes and chatting with the cast and crew. “There was a lot of genuine interest in learning more about autism, particularly Asperger’s syndrome.”

Bell says his appearance comes on the twelfth episode in the show’s 13-episode season and will likely air in mid-May.

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Comments (3 Responses)

  1. haddayr says:

    I am absolutely horrified by this decision. Why on earth did this show, which has otherwise been doing an excellent job with the Asperger’s POV, pick such a polarizing group? There are plenty of other autism-related groups that are not this controversial, such as the Autism Society.

    I am so disappointed, and so angry.

  2. Holmes says:

    Agreed, Autism Speaks denotes autism as a disease, and something to fix and cure. Many autism advocates would argue that autism is a part of their identity and it makes them individuals – for NBC to support an organization that pays their board million dollar salaries off the backs of the Autism Speaks organization should be ashamed of themselves.

  3. KateGladstone says:

    The founder of “Autism Speaks” is an NBC executive with an autistic grandson. Did you really expect that NBC *wouldn’t* showcase “Autism Speaks” in anything the network showed about autism?

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