This weeks episode of The A word is likely the most controversial one yet. It`s easy to see why lots of autistic people are upset by some of the things that happened in the show. But I am still enjoying it. Below I let you know why, and what stood out to me watching this weeks episode.
Joe still walking out on his own: So this week a stranger noticed that Joe was walking down the road on his own, and got out of the car to try and help him. The first person with any sense! He still got shouted at for trying to help. He grabbed hold of Joe, but he was genuinely trying to help. I enjoy the show a lot, but I still can’t get why any parents would be cool with their five year old child walking off alone down a road.
Sleepover: Joe`s Mum volunteered to help out in his school to be able to keep an eye on him (something I know more than a few parents have done over the years) While she was there she noticed he was kind of playing with two other boys. She seemed to pounce on this, and invited them both for a sleepover almost right away. It seems like Joe was getting on quite well with them in his own way. It might have been that he was happy to just sit back, and let them do the talking, or to just play a few games without much talking, or change, or rules. I know I had a few friends when I was younger who I played with. But I was never keen on the idea of a sleepover. It seems to be again his Mum trying to force something that he does not want, or need help with. But that being said I know many parents do put a lot of work in to making sure their autistic child has friends if they want them. I guess the key here is making sure what the parent is doing is what the child wants. In the show the parents were not led by what the children wanted to do, but instead tried to force them all to play in a way that they felt they should be playing.
Fever: Joe had a fever, and during this he, in the eyes of those around him, becomes less autistic. He looked at photos and showed empathy as well as talking a lot more, and not using his music to block people out as he does normally. Of course it’s not the case *that he became less autistic; autistic people feel empathy anyway, and they do not become less autistic at any time. Now I don’t know much, if anything, about the idea of people appearing less autistic if they are ill, but I did see a few comments from people on facebook saying they knew it was true. I have two ideas about this:. One is if someone has a fever they can ramble, and say all kinds of things. Even if they find talking hard, or don’t normally know what to say they might be talking without even really being aware of it. It`s the same with empathy; it`s not that autistic people are not empathetic normally, but we might not know how to show it. A illness might make us just speak without fully knowing what we are going to say? I don’t know in truth. But everyone acts differently when they are ill, so it might well be that some autistic people do act differently if they have a fever, but that does not make them any less autistic.
Joes Mum thinks his autism is gone: In a way you can understand why; her son is doing, and saying things he never has before; things that she has read. or been told that he will never be able to do But we all know that autism does not just vanish over night. The thing is, a lot of parents seem to wish that it would. And even though I might not like how happy she was when she thought her son was no longer autistic, I can’t say that it`s not a realistic portrayal of how some parents would act or feel.
Is the real Joe trapped underneath his autism?: In a word, no. That’s not how it works, as I am sure you know. Autism is a part of who we are, not something that invades from the outside, and blocks out the real us. But again, even though the views are wrong, they are views that are echoed in real life. The thing here is to understand that just because someone on a show says something that is offensive to autistic people that does not mean it is the message of the show. My hope is that by the end of the show the family will have more of an understanding of what Joe`s sister already seems to know – Joe is just Joe. The autism is part of who he is. It`s a key part of how he thinks, feels, and views the world.
Morning after pill: There was one moment in the show that made a lot of people feel uncomfortable. That was where Joe`s Mum takes a pill only after he has started to come back to normal after the fever . His Dad seems happy to try for another baby anyway, but it is clear that his Mum does not want the risk of another autistic child. Once again, even though the action itself is deeply offensive, that does not mean the programme is bad for showing this. I was very lucky to have two parents who understand autism, but not everyone is so lucky. There are parents who get it wrong, who have a negative view of autism, and there is nothing wrong with showing that on TV. Not everything works out well, and it`s OK to show some of the more negative things that some parents can do.
So overall I am still enjoying the show. Joe`s Mum has to be one of the most irritating people I have watched on TV for a long time. Not that she is not a good character, just that she does all the things you should not do if you find out your child is autistic. But like I say, I don’t mind this as there are some parents like her in the world, who do things thinking it`s all for the best, when in truth it`s because they are scared to admit the autism is here to stay.
What do you think? Let me know in the comments.
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