In 2012, television shows took the opportunity to educate and inspire watchers about those with special needs. Some of these television moments were pieces of reality while others were manufactured for the purpose of the show, but all have touched many peoples’ lives and hopefully educated others about what people with special needs can do.
5. So You Think You can Dance (SYTYCD): Young man with Autism Spectrum Disorder auditions for SYTYCD. Often reality talent shows are unkind to auditioners who are “different”. SYTYCD usually follows that norm, but sometimes there are exceptions. During Sam Shreffler’s audition Nigel Lithgowe (executive producer and judge) asked Sam what he does. Sam informed Mr. Lithgowe and the audience that he is a student at a center for people with autism spectrum disorders. Mr. Lithgowe asked Sam to explain what that means and how it affects Sam. Even though Sam shares that he has no formal dance training and the judges choose not to have Sam continue in the competition; all three judges (Nigel, Mary Murphy, and Lil C)praise Sam for his willingness to step out of his comfort zone and audition for the show and to continue dancing because it is something that he obviously loves to do and help him feel free. (To see Sam’s audition, look up Freestyle Dancer - Sam Shreffler on YouTube
4. Fox 4 News KC This local news station in KC, MO has made it a priority in 2012 to educate their viewers about mental illness. The anchors star in public service announcements sharing information about depression and mental illness that air 24/7. The program is called You Matter and the goal is to save lives through education and changing the social stigma attached to mental illness and depression for both children and adults.
3. So You Think You Can Dance: Guest dancers with physical disabilities During the 2012 season, SYTYCD had two performances that were amazing both for their beauty and their ability. One performance had two dancers, one with no apparent disabilities and the other in a wheelchair. The way they danced together was magical mesmerizing. The other performance was a young man with only one leg who used his forearm crutches to dance. The way these dancers performed and used their assistive devices to move their bodies was spellbinding. These dancers were truly inspirational to those with and without physical disabilities.
2. Parenthood The most memorable moment from the fall 2012 season of Parenthood was when Max (a middle-schooler with Asperger’s Syndrome) puts his own desires aside and shows empathy for his sick mom and goes to a school dance. The priceless moment came when he allowed his mom to teach him how to dance with a girl (should he decide to ask one to dance). There have been many moments with Max, including his running for and winning Student Council President, but the moments of him showing empathy are both memorable and imperative as many in society believe that people with Asperger’s and other autism spectrum disorders do not have the ability to empathize.
1. Summer Olympics: Double amputee, Oscar Pistorius from South Africa The most memorable television moment of 2012 came with first ever double amputee competitor in the Olympics. Oscar Pistorius from South Africa has used prosthetic legs his entire life. His dream was to compete in the in the Olympics. His dream came true this past year in London, and millions of people tuned in to watch Oscar run in the 400 meter race. Even though Oscar did not win a medal, his story was hugely inspiring!
These televised moments will not easily be forgotten, and make it exciting to see what 2013 will bring!