Tuesday, December 4, 2018

If only this commercial were more of a reality for kids with disabilities

My friend Wendy texted me a commercial a couple of days ago. I made the mistake of watching it while I was out having coffee, and I choked up at Starbucks.

A group of kids in a suburban neighborhood excitedly race over to another kid's house because he's about to do something awesome. It turns out to be a milestone on a video game. Why is this ad-worthy? Because he is is pulling off this feat with the Xbox Adaptive Controller, released in September at the price of $99.99.  The boy's name is Owen Simmons. He's 9 years old and has Escobar syndrome, and the kids in the commercial are his real-life friends, including his bestie, Gunnar.

This commercial gave me the feels in all sorts of ways. I felt joy for this boy. I was excited to see the Adaptive Controller in action. Microsoft's ad illuminates what we, as parents of children with disabilities, want for them: to have access to the same childhood pleasures that other kids do, and to be included. But I felt a twinge of sadness, too, because that part isn't a reality for many children with disabilities I know, including my Max.

Max is a whiz at Xbox 360 bowling. He plays with his siblings, me or Dave; he doesn't have lots of friends. This doesn't at all faze Max, who is content with his life. He enjoys his school social life and after-school events. He has the best time at the camps he attends during summer. As his mom, though, at times I mourn the more limited social opps he has. I can make all sorts of things happen for Max, except I can't forge friendships for him.

Here's a plea to parents out there who don't have children with disabilities: Please don't just weep over the commercial and move on. Encourage your kid or teen to get to know kids with disabilities at school and in other settings. Talk about the differences we all have, the similarities we share and the abilities each and every one of us possesses. At the very least, encourage your children to say hello to our children at the playground, the park, parties or wherever. They won't be doing our children a favor—they'll be expanding their world, too.

Like the ad says: When everybody plays, we all win.

Photo: YouTube/Microsoft 2018 Holiday Ad


  1. People with Escobar syndrome have normal cognitive development, which probably makes it easier to form true friendships. As kids get older, it's natural for them to connect with other kids who are at a similar cognitive level. That's not to say that typically developing kids shouldn't make an effort to be friendly to and include those with disabilities, but expecting strong, lasting friendships to form is probably not realistic.

    1. I love this blog post. As a therapist, I could not agree more with your insights and conclusionssions.

      I am 55 years old. Kids live in worlds that are much more compartmentalized than mine was, for lots of reasons. Expediency tends to limit the range of socialization and play opportunities.

      Some kids will notice and seek to befriend kids who may be otherwise socially disadvantaged. Most will need mentoring and guidance--not because they are unkind or lack compassion, but because perspective taking--noticing and considering how others might experience the same moment or circumstances--is an advanced social skill that people develop at different points in their lives. (Some never get there.)

      Keep writing! You have a gift for describing context, humanity, and complex perspectives!


Thanks for sharing!

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