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With ‘World Of Jenks,’ MTV Tackles Transition


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MTV is putting a spotlight on the ups and downs facing those with disabilities as they transition to adulthood, with a documentary-style series following a 21-year-old with autism.

Chad DenDanto, now 23, is one of three young adults featured on the network’s “World of Jenks” premiering Monday at 11 p.m. ET. The show, beginning its second season, features host and documentarian Andrew Jenks living with each subject for a year and filming their journeys.

In addition to DenDanto, Jenks also follows Kaylin, a fashion designer who has battled cancer, and D-Real, a street dancer who overcame his gang lifestyle and hopes to inspire others.

DenDanto — who is diagnosed with pervasive developmental disorder, which is on the autism spectrum, and attention deficit hyperactivity disorder — first appeared on the show in 2010 as the subject of a half-hour episode. But now Jenks takes a more in-depth look, moving into DenDanto’s Port Jervis, N.Y. home and tagging along for what’s described as the “biggest year of his life.”

“We realized (at MTV) that we had an opportunity to humanize and destigmatize what it’s like to have autism,” the show’s host, Jenks, 26, of New York, said. “One in 88 American children have autism now. It’s something prevalent that could use more mainstream media attention.”

DenDanto’s television debut nearly three years ago showcased not only the daily issues he faces having autism — including hypersensitivity to smells and noises, such as his classroom bell or cars honking, or severe anxiety over deviation from his schedule — but also his sense of humor and his sensitivity to being treated differently.

This season, viewers get to know DenDanto as he graduates from high school, tries to find a job and begins dating.

“During the first episode you’re thinking, ‘OK, one of the guys on the show has autism. That’s what his story is about.’ After the last episode you realize Chad is really funny, he has a great relationship with his girlfriend, he loves food and Italian culture and fart jokes, and you just know him as Chad. Autism no longer defines him,” Jenks said.

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Comments (9 Responses)

  1. Sally says:

    This is FABULOUS. Thank you, Andrew Jenks, and Chad, you rock. We will be watching.

  2. Chrissy says:

    Thank you so much Andrew Jenks! As a mother of a teenager with Autism, it is so nice to see a glimpse of what might be for my own son. I know for my family one of the scariest things about an Autism diagnosis, was not knowing what to expect for my son’s future.

  3. Jennifer Frank says:

    I have a son who is 13 going through the same thing. He’s transitioning from a child to into puberty. You wouldn’t believe some of the things we’re dealing with. Good and bad. I would love to watch this documentary of Chad but I don’t know if this is on TV, DVD or only the internet. Can you tell me when this begins and how to keep up? Thanks.

  4. katherine morgan says:

    Jennifer Frank, you can find it on MTV, but you can most likely find the episodes on their website as well. :) It’s a great show!

  5. DEIDRE says:

    I am a mother of a 13 year old son with autism and I appreciate the glimpse of what may be in store for my son’s future as well as Chrissy. We are preparing for the transition into high school and as his mom, I am waaaaaaayyyy nervous. Thank you Andrew Jenks!

  6. Deena says:

    Thank you to Andrew Jenks, MTV & DenDanto family for sharing this story and helping to demystify Autism.

  7. brittany jenkins says:

    Chad is and should be an inspiration to everyone!! My nephew was diagnosed with an autism spectrum disorder just as Chad at 3 years old. I hope he gets the chance to do everything Chad does. Seeing Chad acconplish these tasks gives me hope that all children with autism disorders can and will thrive in life!

  8. Sheila Allee says:

    This is such an important issue. Once people age out of public schools, all that they’ve learned can go to waste if they don’t have an opportunity to transition into work and all aspects of adult life. I’ve just toured the Brookwood community outside Houston, which provides much-needed options. I would like to see its model replicated nationwide.

  9. Meg W says:

    I watched last evening…Monday May 20th…and loved it…It was so refreshing…and truthful…the 3 lives so very hopeful and that Andrew so kind and caring…

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