Monthly Archives: March 2016

The A Word – Part 2

I watched the second episode of The A Word last night and I have to say I continue to enjoy it. It is true that some people with autism do have an issue with the show, and I don’t want to downplay what they feel, but from my point of view the show does a good job of portraying how most real families deal with this kind of news. Sure not everything they do or say is something I agree with, or like. But it`s a TV show. While we as autistic viewers know that Joe is not broken, or abnormal or damaged, his family are still trying to understand that. Even though some of the characters might say or do things that seem silly, over the top, or just plain wrong, that’s just an echo of what a lot of real life families do or say. Below are a few things that jumped out to me about episode two.

Standing on his own: Joe`s Mum watches as her son runs out of the class room for break, but instead of going to play with his fellow students he races over to an empty spot, and stands there lost in his own thoughts. This took me right back to my childhood. Even though I was home educated from age seven, for the few years that I did spend in school this was me. I would run out of class as fast as I could down the length of the playground to my spot. Most of my breaks were spent balancing on a pipe tucked away in a wall just thinking my thoughts, and watching the world go by. I was not unhappy, in fact it was the best part of school, but if anyone else was in my spot I had no clue what to do, or where I could go.

Homeschooling: As I have said I was home educated from seven to fifteen, when I went to college. The main point the show made about homeschooling was this; you should try and make what the autistic person wants work, and not try and force them in to doing something you think is best for them. Joe`s Mum was worried he would not fit in, or that he would be looked down on, but the point is he wanted to go to school. I wanted to be home educated and my parents made it work for me. I don’t think homeschooling is a bad thing for anyone, least of all autistic people, but as I say the point the show made was about doing the right thing by each individual, and respecting what autistic people say and want.

Playing the same part of a song over and over: This is something I know a lot of autistic people do. First of all playing the same song the whole way through can be a relaxing and soothing thing, but it can be more than that. Often songs or even parts of songs inspire me to think, to see stories in my head, or to plan out something I am going to write. It`s not uncommon for me to listen to one or two songs on repeat time and time again when I am working on something. I don’t often play the same line over and over, but I do know lots of people who do.

Could anyone else have autism? The Granddad of the family is very blunt, and does not seem to understand when he should talk, and when not to. He is often being told off for saying or doing the wrong thing, or saying something at the wrong time. It might be that he is just rude, but he seems to mean well whatever he says, and it could be the case that he is written as undiagnosed autistic. Something to keep an eye on as the show moves on anyway.

Walking by himself: This is one thing I do not understand. Joe is five years old, and yet they seem happy to let him walk off by himself every morning before they are even fully up and awake. It struck me as odd that they knew he was off walking, and yet just assumed that he would be brought back to them.

Ashamed: The main plot of this episode was how the parents reacted to Joe being autistic. How they became more aware of the things he did, and how that made him stand out. But also how far they still had to go to fully understand him. Because it seems to me – and I am talking only as someone with autism, not as a parent – but it seems that most parents go full circle; they start off just thinking their child is a bit different, but not odd or damaged. Then they find out he/she is autistic and panic for a while. Then after trying things out, getting things wrong, being unsure if they have done something wrong, fearing for their child and even being ashamed of their child or on their child’s behalf, they get back to the start – that there is nothing wrong with their child, that their child is not broken or damaged, and he/she is just who they are. And then they feel ashamed for feeling ashamed in the first place! That might not be true, but perhaps if you`re a parent you could let me know if it is or not? The point is that while I as someone with autism might not agree with how parents often feel, I can’t pretend that they don’t feel that way.

Over all I feel that this was a strong second episode that had a lot of truth in it, and was relatable for me as someone with autism. I don’t always agree with what the parents say, but truth be told I often don’t agree with what a lot of parents say in real life! People get stuff wrong, when their child is first diagnosed most of all, so the fact that the programme shows that, and does not attempt to gloss over it, is good. I am still enjoying the show, but I would like to hear from you. What do you think of it? If you like, or dislike it tell me why.

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The A word.

(Note: This blog was written a few days ago but I have only been able to post it now.)

I am sure most of you know of the new drama about autism on the BBC. A lot of you have watched it, and have fairly strong views one way or the other. Now it’s always a risk coming out and making a statement about a show after one episode, but I am going to take that risk, and say that I enjoyed the show.  I also had no issue with the way it handled autism. But I hear the complaints so I thought I would write a blog on my thoughts around them.  Keep in mind I don’t know how the show is going to pan-out, and it might all be downhill from here, but so far, after one episode this is what I think of the complaints being levelled at it.

Not true to life for autistic people: This is a pretty big one. I have heard it said by a few people that the show is unrealistic and shows a lightweight version of autism. But as anyone who knows about autism can and will tell you, it presents in many different ways.  Autistic people are not carbon copies of each other.  In fact we are a mix from a wide pool of traits that make up the spectrum.  I might not have been able to see huge amounts of myself in Joe the five year old boy diagnosed with autism in the show, at first, but the more I watched the more I did see my Mum in him.  Lots of people miss out on a diagnosis of autism in their youth as they don’t tick the classic boxes.  People who don’t meltdown much, and turn most of their feelings inwards can end up almost drifting through life unnoticed, as their silence is often taken for compliance, and not distress. There is an idea that this is somehow `Female autism`.  That of course is not true, and males I am sure are just as likely to present this way as females. I liked the fact that the show did not go down the classic young autistic boy route.

Very quick diagnosis: It’s true that no one gets diagnosed as autistic that quickly. The waiting list alone can leave people hanging on for years. But this is where you just have to understand it’s a TV show.  To film a two year wait for an appointment and then a six month wait for the results would hardly make gripping TV.  Plus what it would mean in terms of practicalities for drama and the cast. Call it artistic license.  But saying that the show starts part way through the assessment, and for all we know he might have been on a waiting list for months or years before the start of the show.

Attitudes: The fact that there are negative or fearful attitudes to autism in the show is not in any way a bad thing.  Are some of the family members in the dark about autism?  Yes.  Do they use poor and negative language about it? Yes.  And are they upset and fearful when they find out their son is autistic?  Again yes. But that’s not a bad thing. It’s a true reflection of the way a lot of real life families feel, talk and act.  Yes it is a shame that in 2016 it’s still a realistic reflection of how real people can view autism, but showing us what we know to be true does not make a show bad.  Plus you need to keep in mind that this is not just a show for us. By us I mean autistic people. Lots of the people watching this will not be autistic, and might not know anyone who is. Therefore their views might match the views in the show.  To turn around half an hour in, and ask people to change views they might have held for years just won’t work. If the show goes the way I think it will then the views of the people in the show will change.  Think of it as a helping hand for people who are set in their views about autism, or have little to no understanding of it.

So was there anything bad about it?

So far there is nothing about the show itself that I did not like. But again keep in mind we are only one episode in and my views might have completely changed by this time next week. The one issue I did have was when the doctor said she would never call anyone on the spectrum autistic. I did not get this bit at all as if you are someone with autism, then you are autistic.  I guess some people might like that, but for me it seemed a bit odd. However, many professionals do prefer to use person-first language when describing autistic people as in `person with autism. So it must have been trying to show this. Even though it’s not something I would do, I don’t have any issue with it in the show as it fitted what the professional would have said in real life.

Over all I enjoyed the show and I am keen to see how it progresses. I would like to know what you think though.  Did you enjoy the show, or hate it?  How do you think it handled the subject of autism?  Let me know. I might blog about this again next week to see if I still feel the same, or if my views have changed.