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ABC-TV Addresses Autism Again in Extreme Makeover: Home Edition

By February 6, 2007

It's a bit odd, since the NBC-TV Chairman of the Board is the founder of AutismSpeaks, but this seems to be ABC's autism awareness month. According to a recent press release, Extreme Makeover: Home Edition will be refurbishing the home of a family with no fewer than five children on the autism spectrum. Here are the details from the press release
The O'Donnell family of Austin, Texas will receive a new and renovated home in just seven days thanks to "Extreme Makeover: Home Edition," airing SUNDAY, FEBRUARY 18 (8:00-9:00 p.m., ET) on the ABC Television Network.

The story of Patrick and Jeanette O'Donnell, the parents of six children, is a rare and heartbreaking one. Five out of their six children have been diagnosed with and suffer from multiple forms of autism that range from simple communication limitations to severe physical and social problems. ... With a salary barely adequate for a special needs family of eight, the O'Donnells are struggling, to say the least. With thirty days left until foreclosure on their home and worries about losing their children to the state if their home isn't deemed to be a safe and secure environment, the O'Donnells are desperate for a new home that is specifically suited to each of their children's very different sensory needs.

In this episode of "Extreme Makeover: Home Edition," the family will finally get the needed security, serenity and sensory design to help their children develop their own sense of expression and purpose. In addition, Country Music star Trace Adkins performs at a benefit for the family.

While the "makeover" is going on, the whole family will be treated to an adaptive ski vacation!

Once again, autism is in the limelight. And once again, an individual families struggles and victories represent the autism community as a whole. Will you watch this show? What's your take on the presentation of the O'Donnell family as a metaphor for the sometimes-overwhelming nature of autism spectrum disorders?

February 7, 2007 at 6:14 pm
(1) patricia liscum says:

I too have a child on the spectrum and it can be costly and overwelming. Luckly for us we have insurance that takes care of some of the burdens of the payments of the doctors appointments. It’s about time that the televison shows the other side . Every time you watch it you see familys in huge houses that seem to be pretty well off with their children recieving all the help they need. They never show the struggling families[like my self. ]Maybe now everyone can see what a day to day struggle it is to have a child on the spectrum and see all the difficulties[money wise and emotiomal wise] it takes on us.

February 10, 2007 at 10:27 pm
(2) Teresa Wiley says:

I will be watching to see what ideas I can come up with for my own home. I also have more than one child on the spectrum and it can be very hard trying to meet more than one child’s needs.

February 14, 2007 at 11:37 am
(3) Judy P says:

Yes, I will watch this show. With 1 in 150 children being diagnosed with a form of autism, this is something America needs to see. My children attend a school with special needs children. My son has a wonderful connection to a young boy with autism and it is a delight to see how their friendship blends together during the school day and afterwards. My son says he just understands the other boy better than some. If we all understood alittle more about autism and the struggles the children and families go through, it might make things a little easier for those dealing with autism.

February 19, 2007 at 1:52 am
(4) Dianna Burnley says:

I can’t tell you how angry I was when I started watching tonight’s Extreme Makeover. How selfish these parents must be. They wanted lots of children so they continued to bring these poor kids into this world. What’s going to happen to them after the parents are gone?

I can understand when a family has one even two children with special needs. But I can’t understand why, when a husband and wife clearly knows they can’t afford a multitude of healthy children let alone five with special needs, continue to have children. Doesn’t it make one wonder if one or two children have a problem it might not be a good idea to continue having children? There is something so totally wrong with that. The poor “normal” child has the whole world resting on her shoulders. That is not right.

I realize Extreme Makeover is out for “ratings” but this is rediculous.

I have been a fan of your show since it started and I feel you have done some wonderful things for many families but after this show I’m not so sure I will watch again. I have also used Sears to help me remodel many kitchens and homes in the past but I think Lowe’s will be my next choice.

February 19, 2007 at 2:11 pm
(5) Tricia says:

Clearly, Dianna, you do not understand Autism very much. I don’t know what to say to make you understand how hurtful your words are to a mother of an autistic child. I pray that you do not feel this hurt, and none of your family need help.

February 19, 2007 at 6:45 pm
(6) Chris says:

Dianna, You must not understand Autism. It shows up maybe early, but mostly is misdiagnoised and by 3 you might find out your child is Autistic. How could these people even know back then, when doctors couldn’t even figure it out. Do have some compassion, this could easily happen to anyone, it’s doesn’t discrimate what so ever, rich and poor alike.

February 20, 2007 at 9:44 am
(7) Rose says:

I am a grandmother of a child with autism. It’s heartbreaking. But I have learned there is a place for ALL children in this world. They are given to us for a reason. I have learned so much from my grandson. Like courage, struggle, acceptance. He’a a true miracle. Dainna,how could you possibly speak those comments. I think the Mom on the show said it better than anyone could, when asked why she had so many children??? “Which one would you give back?” I pray for you that you can someday understand what these children and their families go through. May you never know the heart ache.

February 21, 2007 at 7:58 pm
(8) dori says:

My children were diagnosed at: (oldest) 4 (my 2nd was already born), and the second was not diagnosed until age 10 (she has mild asperger’s), and my 3rd at 4 (PDD). So it’s very obvious all of one’s children could already be born, especially if one has them closer together, before you know they have autism. Yes, do your resesarch and learn more before judging!

April 19, 2007 at 7:19 pm
(9) Melissa says:

I feel I must come to Dianna’s defense. She’s not criticizing Autism and I believe she does understand what these parents and others like them are going through. What she is criticizing (and I agree with her) is the fact that the parents had SIX children. I’m sure they love them all but just about every hour I’m awake I hear something about global warming and the disastrous state of our planet. We are consuming at a disgusting rate and to have any more than two children seems nothing less than selfish. Pray for me to your god if it makes you feel better. I’ve chosen to adopt and have given an unwanted child a home rather than have one and I feel that I’ve made the world a little bit better by doing so. Just because we CAN breed. Doesn’t mean we should.

July 19, 2007 at 6:01 pm
(10) Daarina smith says:

yes I live in houston texas and my house is a mess and I would love to get a extream make over and my grandfather is handy cap and he needs help getin in and out of bed call8327229572 my family need this im 17 years old ill do anything

May 21, 2008 at 6:15 am
(11) Anya says:

This is a little late comment, but i will go for it anyway.
I dont understand completely how someone can say its selfish to have children. I have a brother who is disabled, and my fiancee has a mild autism.
both of them deserves to be in this world!
Melissa says that she has adobted at child and kudos for that. But its not all who CAN adobt… im my country, we have a problem that perople dont get enough children, and that will reck our contry in 10-20 years…

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