‘Degrassi’ Tackles Asperger Syndrome
Popular Canadian drama deals with autistic disorder
By Matthew B. Zeidman
A.J. Saudin plays Connor, a high-schooler on 'Degrassi: The Next Generation' with Asperger syndrome
NEW YORK (Hollywood Today) 2/28/09 – “Degrassi: The Next Generation” has dealt with a variety of frank topics over its nearly 8-year run, including AIDS, alcohol abuse, depression, drugs, homophobia, rape and teen pregnancy. With the U.S. premiere of its latest episode on Friday, the Canadian teen drama expanded its range by revealing one of its younger characters suffered from Asperger syndrome and examining his struggle to function in an unsympathetic environment.
Asperger syndrome, a form of autism, manifests itself primarily through social awkwardness and greater-than-normal difficulty learning basic social customs and cues. Among several other possible symptoms, those with the syndrome may also exhibit repetitive behavior, but rarely experience speech-development delays common to other forms of autism.
“Degrassi,” which airs on teen-centric cable network The N, is the latest show to promote awareness of the disorder. In late 2007, a contestant on season nine of The CW’s “America’s Next Top Model,” Heather Kuzmich, suffered from the syndrome.
A major focus on the program was the aspiring model’s difficulty interacting with her follow participants, which Kuzmich overcame to come in fifth place out of 20. She was also voted fan favorite each week from her second appearance on the show until her elimination.
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