Touch: Parental Connection and Superpowers

January 26, 2012 in Special Education Advisor Blog by Doug Goldberg

I planned on staying out of the fray when it came to the new show on Fox that aired last night called Touch. Many other blogs that focus on children with special needs had already thoroughly discussed and written about this new show. It’s not that I wasn’t interested in watching it, I was, but I didn’t want to rehash the same concepts as everyone else. Then three things happened, 1) before I watched the show on the west coast I saw a discussion on a facebook page by parents who had already watched it, 2) some of the comments on that discussion bothered me, and 3) I watched the show. I came to the conclusion that, at least in my mind, I had something to add to this discussion.

After watching Touch I can say I thoroughly enjoyed it but not for the reasons most people will. As you all know I am a father of a child with special needs. Similar to Kiefer Sutherland’s character, Martin Bohm, I originally struggled connecting with my son. All parents need to connect or form a bond with their children but if you are a parent of a child with special needs this is not always easy. According to the Fox Website:

At the center (of Touch) is MARTIN BOHM (Kiefer Sutherland, "24"), a widower and single father, haunted by an inability to connect to his mute, severely autistic 11-year-old son, JAKE. Caring, intelligent and thoughtful, Martin has tried everything to reach his son who shows little emotion and never allows himself to be touched by anyone, including Martin. Jake busies himself with cast-off cell phones, disassembling them and manipulating the parts, allowing him to see the world in his own special way.

What I needed to learn all those years ago was that to connect with my son I needed to embrace who he is, not who I wanted him to be. I had to experience life as he sees it and play with him on his terms not mine. Sometimes that means I must walk around a restaurant counting fans or driving around just to look at electrical poles. By the way, these have become some of my favorite moments with my son!!! So when Jake turns to his Father at the end of the show and hugs him I was ecstatic. Martin finally connected with his son on his terms, just like I had to learn all those years ago. If for no other reason I now love this show.

Now back to that discussion I viewed on facebook about the show. The majority of the comments were very positive about the show and Jake but a few were VERY concerned that Neurotypicals (NT) might think every child with autism has a superpower. I hate to tell you but most kids with special needs DO have superpowers. According to Wikiepedia:

There is no rigid definition of a "superpower". In popular culture, it may be used to describe anything from minimal exaggeration of normal human traits, magic, to near-godlike abilities including flight, superstrength, projection of destructive energy beams and force fields, invulnerability, telepathy, telekinesis, teleportation, super-speed or control of the weather.

Generally speaking, exceptional-but-not-superhuman fictional characters like Sherlock Holmes, Doc Savage, Batman, and Green Arrow may be classified as superheroes although they do not have any actual superpowers.

Make sure you read that description of superpowers a couple of times and let it sink in. Now think about your child’s strengths and I bet you there is at least one that could meet the description of superpower. I have long held that my son has superpowers. He can tell me the name of every street and freeway in Southern California and direct me to any location. Who needs a Navigation System when I have my son? He can also tell me the exact date we were last at a location. As we walked into Islands, the restaurant, the other day he turned to me and said we have not been here since March 2nd in 2011. That’s a superpower in my book. I have never met a child that didn’t have at least one strength that could meet the description of a superpower. So instead of worrying about it, embrace it. Tell me what your child’s superpower is in the comment section below.


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