(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.