Tag Archives: film

Why I have been avoiding shows about autism.

Last year I watched The A Word and did a review for each episode, but this year I have not even caught up on the first episode of series two yet. This is in part due to me being busy and having a lot of other things to watch, but it is also due to the fact that I find it quite hard and cringe-inducing to watch shows/films that seek to portray autism. That’s also why I never got around to watching Atypical, despite thinking that I should write something about it. So why have I been avoiding shows with autism in them? And should I keep doing so?

There has been a bit of patten in recent years with The A word, The Good Doctor, Atypical and the Accountant among others all being released to media praise, and a backlash from autistic people. It normally goes something like this: The show/film comes out and gets widely praised for having an autistic character, autistic people let themselves hope it will be done right, watch the show/film only to find out it`s been badly done and is mostly just stereotypes, and react badly to it. We write blogs and post online about why the film/show is getting things wrong, and urge people not to take what that program is showing them as a realistic image of what autism is, then the show`s/film`s creators respond by saying that the show/film is not meant to represent everyone with autism, and can not tell everyone’s story, and that’s the end of it until the next show/film.

Firstly to address some of those points: of course each show and film can only tell one story, and is not meant to represent everyone, but some of the stories we see in film and T.V. do not seem to represent anyone; they are just stereotypes brought to life on screen. Plus you only have to look at the Rainman effect to see what power films and T.V. have over how people see autism and autistic people. Even now, well over twenty years since its release, it is still one of the first things some people go to when they think of autism. It`s not that it`s a bad film, it`s just that lots of people don’t want to look any further in to a subject once they have seen one film or T.V. show on it. They think they understand it now and can talk about it like experts. The truth is autistic people understand that one show or one film is not going to show everything there is to know about autism, but sadly a lot of non-autistic people do not seem to understand this. Therefore those shows/films have a power that most others do not; they will help shape and create non-autistic peoples` views and perceptions of autistic people for years to come.

So when a new T.V. show comes on the air autistic people tend to have a mix of feelings; we want it to be good – why would we not after all? But we also worry that it will be bad. If it is bad then some of us will feel we have to react to it; to keep watching through the cringingly bad attempts to show how autistic people talk, think and feel, to keep watching even if it passes the point of being offensively bad. And sometimes it is worth doing that – you can`t write about something or hold it to account if you have not watched it. You can dislike an idea, but to call out a show or film you do have to sit down and watch it. You have to think about why it`s bad, write that down, edit it and post it somewhere, and that’s the thing – sometimes it just does not feel worth while doing that.

It is always worth autistic people speaking up and challenging poor portrayals of autism on T.V. If we do not do this then who will? And like I said those portrayals, if left unchallenged, will dictate how non-autistic people view autism. But still, having to watch through them can sometimes be trying. It`s hard enough to have to watch bad films and T.V. without falling asleep or drifting off to find something better to do, but when you have to watch bad TV/films that also try and fail to show autism it becomes even harder to get through. It`s hard to put the feeling in to words; it`s not always that things are offensive, although sometimes they are, it`s more that it can just be downright painful to watch sometimes. I am sure we have all seen a film or T.V. show that got stuff badly wrong when showing autism, and if you have then you will know the feeling I am talking about.

It can feel like autistic people are having to say the same things over and over again when talking about how autistic people are shown on T.V. We pick up on the same issues time and time again, and talk/write about them, and yet not much seems to change.

So is it worth watching and reviewing these shows/films?

It`s always worth talking and writing about how autism is portrayed in film or on T.V. Even, or perhaps especially, if it is a bad portrayal. Of course anyone can review anything, but the views of an autistic person must hold more weight when talking about autism on screen. That being said no one is ever obligated to review a show or film. Once you start writing about things like that it can start to feel as if you need to watch everything to keep up with what’s going on, and give your views on every new T.V. show that comes out. But you might not want to; you might be fed up of watching TV/films that frustrate you, but also you might just not have time to keep up with everything. Right now autism is a pretty big deal on T.V. There are new shows coming out about it all the time, and it would be hard for anyone to keep up.

In short yes it is important for autistic people to speak up if we see a bad, negative, or flawed image of autism on T.V. and also to say when people get stuff right, but it`s also totally understandable if we need a break from doing this from time to time. I will try and catch up on The A word, and despite my talk of bad portrayals of autism on T.V. I will keep an open mind going in to it. And while I can`t watch and talk about every show that deals with autism, I do try and read as many reviews of these shows by autistic people as I can.

You can find my new book here: http://www.jkp.com/uk/communicating-better-with-people-on-the-autism-spectrum-34251.html

If you need any help or advice abut Asperger`s/Autism or simply want to talk about it check out our free help and advice service ASK-PERGERS?

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And have a look at our books (at the time published under pseudonyms, but we did write them trust us on that!)  http://www.jkp.com/catalogue/author/1762


I, Daniel Blake: why this film is so important …

I, Daniel Blake is the new film by acclaimed director, Ken Loach. It stars Dave Johns as the title character, a joiner from the north east of England who is now unable to work following a heart attack on the job.  And Hayley Squires as a young single mother (Katie) who he befriends after he takes her side in an argument at the job centre. The film follows his attempts to help Katie and her children as they adjust to their new life after being forced to move from London, and away from everyone and everything they know, to the only house that is available for them.  At the same time he is trying to navigate his way through a benefits system that seems to be set up to push him back at every turn.

On the surface this is a simple film; an older man who never got the chance to have a family meets up with a young Mum and two kids, and does all the things with and for them that he would have for his own family. But the truth is that the film is about so much more than this.  It is, at its core, a film about people vs. state. About how faceless bureaucracy, and red-tape grind normal men and woman down to the point where they no longer have even a shred of self-respect. A film about how the systems that are meant to help people lack the common sense, or the compassion to even acknowledge when someone is in need.


It is a deeply important film, and that fact in itself speaks volumes. Fifty years ago Ken Loach made Cathy Come Home. A film about a young woman, who along with her two young children, is forced from house to house by a system that is rigged against her.  At times moving far away from any family to the only accommodation they are willing to give her – failed by people who would pass her from one department to the next until she had no clue what was going on. She spent time in a homeless shelter, and found herself brought to her knees by a system that was meant to help, but instead acted against her, and against common sense at every turn.

The fact that fifty years on Ken Loach can make a film about people forced to move from their homes, in fact to different cities, at the whim of the councils, and about people being failed and lied to by a system meant to help them, is shocking. And it should shock you. It might be that you come out of watching this film thinking it is being heavy-handed, that it`s exaggerating.  Well let me tell you that as someone who has years’ worth of experience dealing with the benefits agency, that’s just not true. Everything about this film rang true to me. The hours spent waiting on the phone, medical assessments carried out by people who have no clue what they are talking about, and yes, even people who are being told by their Drs that going back to work would be bad for their health – or perhaps even fatal – being forced to look for a job. I am autistic and can’t speak on the phone myself but I have spent hours watching my Mum deal with the benefits agencies and seen first-hand how much stress and anxiety this causes her. That being said I am lucky, I have someone who will make the phone calls that I myself cannot make.  Lots of autistic people are not this lucky and find themselves alone. Unable to get the help they need they end up on the street, or even starving to death.

I wish that I could say the film does exaggerate, but no.  It is a true and tragic portrait of modern day England for a lot of people.

I won’t go in to the film`s ending, or people’s reaction to it, as I think it’s only fair to let you experience these for yourself.  But what I will say is that as I left the screening people were talking. Not about the normal things people might casually chat about when leaving a cinema. They were talking about their own lives, about memories and feelings the film had dragged up. There were voices raised in anger, and stories being told of past injustices, because that’s the point of this film. Yes we are watching Daniel Blake and the events of his life, but he could be anyone. A man who has worked all his life, and done no harm to anyone can fall prey to the system – so could you, and so could your friends, or neighbours.

As I watched Daniel toil against the system I could recognize all that he went through, and understand how he felt.

This is an important film. Not because it deals with a tragedy from years ago, or atrocities committed in some far off land.  No, it`s important because it deals with what is happening now – in this county, and in the very streets where we live. The sad thing is that a lot of people who might be affected by the issues in this film probably could not afford the transport costs, or admission fees to go and see it.

I would urge anyone and everyone who can to go and see it – not only because it is a very well made and moving film, but because it tells a story that means something. There is no drama for the sake of drama, or forced emotions.  The drama and emotion come from the brutal and unflinching depiction of real life.

Much like Cathy Come Home did for the 1960s I, Daniel Blake shines a light on a corrupt and hopeless system that is failing those most in need of its help. Yes it is an unashamedly political film, but why should it not be? It tells a story that needs to be told, and it does so while still remaining a moving and effective piece of cinema. One of the most important films of recent years, and one everyone should watch if they have the chance – especially politicians and those working within the benefits system.

You can find my new book here: http://www.jkp.com/uk/communicating-better-with-people-on-the-autism-spectrum-34251.html

If you need any more help or advice about Asperger`s/Autism or simply want to talk about it check out our free help and advice service ASK-PERGERS?

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And have a look at our books (at the time published under pseudonyms, but we did write them trust us on that!)  http://www.jkp.com/catalogue/author/1762

AUTISM: when you are so overloaded that you can`t even do your favourite thing …

In the past month I have done three talks about my book. One at the launch for the book, and two more for other events where I talked about my book, and autism. Unlike a lot of people I enjoy doing public speaking, and I had fun doing the talks and selling my books afterwards.  I knew even as I was doing them that it would take a lot of out me. But I have to admit I underestimated quite how long it would take me to recover. I had thought that a few days of rest might be OK, and that I could be back to normal after that, but the truth is it’s taken me about two weeks to feel like I can get back to any kind of normal routine. So why is this?  And what kind of impact has it had on me?

Let me start by saying this. No one who is not autistic can understand sensory and emotional overload. People try, and they do mean well, but saying things like “I will be pretty tired too.” Or “You will just need to crash out in front of the telly tonight.” just show how little they do understand. When you have an overload sometimes you’re so worn out you can’t even rest. You can’t watch anything, you can’t read and you can’t even make a basic decision – sometimes for days on end. I love watching films, and when I can I watch a film a day. So when I can’t watch films that is a sign that I am overloaded, and need to give up on the idea of doing anything.

This was taken to something of an extreme with my last overload. Each year since I was around fourteen I have been to a horror film festival. For the first few years I only went to see a few films, but for the last five years or so I have gone to watch every film over the four days of the festival. It’s one of the few things in the year that I do look forward to doing, and one of the few time I can bring myself to go out four days on the run. Even though I always have a good time I always feel overloaded by the end, and need at least a week to relax, and do nothing after having been out and about so much.

Normally I would make sure I was not going out the week before the festival starts, but this year I decided to go and do a talk just two days before it was meant to start. I can’t say for sure why I thought this would be a good idea. I think I just got so caught up in the fun of doing talks, and selling books that I did not stop to think too much about the after-effect. But then on the day the festival was due to start the last thing I wanted to do was to go out. All I wanted to do was stay inside and do nothing. But I forced myself to go out for the first night, and watched three good films. Even though I enjoyed the films, I knew when I got home that I was feeling much more overloaded than I normally would at this point in the festival. And when I got up the next morning I knew that going back out would not be a good idea. I don’t want to make things sound over dramatic, and it’s not the worst thing in the world by any means – I missed watching a few films, that’s all. But the point is that I was unable to do something that I enjoy doing, and something that I actively make sure I do each year.

And this is where people not understanding overload comes in. How to explain to someone something you can’t fully understand, or find the words for yourself? How do you explain that going out and doing something you enjoy, something you would even find fun when you`re there, would in fact be bad for you?

When you`re  overloaded, or at least when I am (I can’t speak for everyone with autism) it’s a case of not being able to do anything, and almost drifting around all day just waiting for time to pass so that the overload will fade, and I can get back on with my life. It might take me all day just to decide to watch a film then another hour to pick one to put on. And the likelihood is even if I did I would not be able to get in to it.  It’s as if your mind stops working as it should; you can’t think clearly, or even decide anything for yourself.  And as I say this can last for up to a week normally.

On top of that I felt angry at myself for not planning as I should have done. I ended up not going to the festival and staying at home over the weekend instead. This was the right thing to do, and I am glad that I decided to do it, but I still feel as if I should have known better than to end up in that situation. Doing a talk and then dealing with all the one-on-one interactions that come with selling books took a lot out of me. More than I thought it would do.  And hopefully I can use the mistakes I made to learn more about myself, overload, and how to plan my work in future.

You can find my new book here: http://www.jkp.com/uk/communicating-better-with-people-on-the-autism-spectrum-34251.html

If you need any more help or advice about Asperger`s/Autism or simply want to talk about it check out our free help and advice service ASK-PERGERS?

Twitter https://twitter.com/ASKPERGERS

Facebook https://www.facebook.com/ASKPERGERS?ref=hl

And have a look at our books (at the time published under pseudonyms, but we did write them trust us on that!)  http://www.jkp.com/catalogue/author/1762

The A Word – Episode 5

Once again I am late with my A word blog, but I caught up on episode five today. Below are some of my thoughts on the penultimate episode of the show.

Joe out walking, again!: Yes this is something I say every week, but the more times I see it the more times I feel it is worthy of comment!  A five year old boy should not be walking down a road on his own.  But more importantly than that I feel it’s just bad writing.  Joe`s Mum and Dad are set up to be worried about him. They fear for his safety. They don’t let him take risks. At least for fifty eight minutes of each episode they don’t.  The opening shots just undermine all the writing that was done building them up as characters. They just wake up, and don’t worry about where their five year old son is, and just wait for someone to bring him back. Now no five year old should be allowed to do this, but it is true some vulnerable autistic people do get out of the house and walk off.  And it’s a big issue. People die from doing this; in some cases young autistic people walk off, and are never heard from again. Nothing else Joe does is that bad; it’s as if his parents want to change the things that impact how people might view him, but not the things that might impact on his life. That might be OK, and the show might be set up to be a tragedy where they spend so long trying to change the things that make Joe who he is, and ignoring the huge life-threatening issue that he ends up being hit by a car. But again that’s just bad writing; someone would say something about a five year old walking down the road by themselves – if not anyone else at least the police officer who picked him up.

Maya getting deported: Maya getting deported does two things in the show:  One, it opens up a whole new argument about how to deal with that situation, and what the best thing for Joe is.  And two, it looks like it sets up Joe going missing in the final episode, with no one to find him when he walks off.  It’s clear that Joe likes Maya, and she seems to communicate with him in a way that he understands, through music. She does not try and make him do the things he can’t do, but instead she works with him on the things he can do.  Also introducing your kids, autistic or not, to Motorhead at a young age is just good parenting.

Alison needs to be in control of everything, and can’t be told no: Just look at how episode 5 starts. Her son is brought back to her in a police car.  Her reaction? To have a go at the police officer who brought her son back. She then pushes Joe on to her sister-in-law despite the sister- in-law needing to get to work.  And then later on she tries to bribe a police offer to let Maya stay, and seems genuinely offended when he tells her no. For me this is not good parenting. Good parenting is finding out what your autistic child wants, and doing what you can to help them get it. But not to the point of breaking the law, or manipulating and bullying other members of your family.  Most of what she does seems to be more about her wanting to get her own way.  Just think about the photos. It’s not that Joe at any point seems like he wants to look at them, but cant.  It’s just that she thinks he should be doing it. She is, as has been hinted at in the show, a bully. She seems to be using Joe as a smoke screen to control those around her, and get her own way.  In truth I am not even sure that she realises that’s what she is doing. When the police officer brings her son back – a son who was walking down a road on his own, and was then found by the officer in a car with two men who were not related to him – he also brings her bad news. So instead of thanking him for doing her job, and keeping her son safe, she puts him down and bullies him, making out he is somehow in the wrong.  Then again when she fails to bribe the other officer, she does the same. She is too embarrassed to admit Joe is autistic, and yet she tries to make out as if the police offer is the one in the wrong for not taking a bribe.  Over all it`s not that I think she is badly written, I just think she is written not to be the hero of the story, but to be in a way the villain of the piece.  She is not nice to the rest of her family.  She does not take Joes needs in to account, but instead looks at her own needs, and how to change him to suit them.  She bullies, lies, and manipulates those around her, and hides behind her son`s autism to get away with it.  Good character, bad person.

Overload: It`s clear Joe is overloaded by everything that’s going on.  I think this was dealt with OK in parts, but he seemed to get over his overload quite fast.  Holding his hands over his ears in the school was well acted, and not a wholly untrue representation of what an overload is like.  I have to say that as things like emotional and sensory overload affect everyone in different ways there was nothing hugely wrong about the parts where Joe was overloaded, but I don’t think anyone comes down from an overload that fast.  What do you think?  Did it ring true for you, or not?

They need to talk about change in the right way: So Maya is leaving, and Joe`s Mum wants him to say he understands, and talk about his feelings while looking her in the eyes, and his Dad wants to pretend it’s not happening. Neither of those are good ideas.  It needs to be talked about a lot. Perhaps things need to be written down for Joe; things such as how life around the home will change when Maya leaves. There is no need for him to look in his Mum`s eyes as she does this. It’s OK if he does not talk a lot, or even at all as it`s clear that he is able to understand most of what is said to him. Now if this had happened in the first episode I could understand neither of the parents having a clue how to deal with it, but look at all the reading the Mum has been doing about autism. I am sure some of that would have talked about how big changes can impact on someone with autism, and how they need to be dealt with.  And also about how it’s not OK to force your kids to make eye contact with you!

A normal baby: One part of the show that some people might take issue with is when the Dad says that he wants to have a normal child. Now this is clearly not a nice thing to say, but I can understand why it might be in the show. I am sure there have been a few parents over the years who have said something like that, and later regretted it. Like I say, I have no sympathy for people who feel that way, but I can understand why it is something that would be written in to a show.

Joe missing? So it looks like in the final episode Joe will go off walking by himself, and get lost. What a shock.  Let’s see what happens, but to tell the truth so far it feels like a very lazy, badly written set up.  Which is a shame because I had high hopes for the show at the start.

So over all what do I think?  Well the truth is I don’t know.  I don’t mind the fact that the show is about people who in my view are poor parents, who don’t get autism, as long as it leads to something. People make mistakes, and I understand this, but I feel it is more than that.  I would like the series to end by showing how misguided, and wrong the parent’s view of Joe’s autism is.  Some of the writing has been poor, but overall I don’t think the show is bad. It would be fairer to say it’s getting more and more frustrating each week. What do you think?

What do you think? Let me know in the comments.

If you need any more help or advice about Asperger`s/Autism or simply want to talk about it check out our free help and advice service ASK-PERGERS?

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And have a look at our books (at the time published under pseudonyms, but we did write them trust us on that!)  http://www.jkp.com/catalogue/author/1762

The A Word – Part 3

I`ve finally caught up on The A word so I thought I would share some of my thoughts on episode three. Even though I found some of the things in this episode to be less realistic than in the first two, I am still enjoying the show overall. Below are some of my thoughts, starting off with something everyone on twitter seems to have picked up on.

The speech therapist: I think it’s fair to say that no real life speech therapist would go in to a family`s home and berate the whole family for the way they talk to each other. It is true that the family’s communication is poor, and that might be something a therapist would address in a tactful way at a later date. But no one would sit around a table, and do this in such a confrontational way. And if they did I imagine they would be asked to leave before they got any chance to work one on one with the child. I do understand that it is a drama, and the therapist in the story had her own reasons for being that way with the family. But by doing so she was risking them throwing her out, and therefore depriving the little boy, Joe, of any help she might be able to give him.

Music is a form of communication: Sticking with the theme of the therapist, I was struck by how quickly she dismissed Joe’s music, and how his Dad uses it to communicate with him. It seems to me that Joe talks to his Dad more than anyone else. His Dad knows how to talk to him, and in my view the fact that he uses something Joe loves to do so is no bad thing. It might be a matter of opinion, but for me what a therapist should do is to make the family more able to communicate with the autistic person on their terms – to make sure they are included and give them the chance, and the tools to join in in the best way they can. The Dad seemed to be doing that quite well by using the music as a way of interacting with his autistic son.

Joe being asked questions: With this point I know how I feel, but at the same time I don’t know if that’s just because of my experiences, or if anyone else felt the same way. The way that the speech therapist tried to engage Joe, and get him talking was to make him more of a part of things. By asking him direct questions, and getting him to do things rather than be passive. I know that for me this would not have worked as it would have put me on the spot, and made me even more overloaded and worried. But what about you? As I say, everyone with autism is different, so just because this would not have worked for me does not mean it would not work for anyone. Let me know, does being drawn more in to things, and asked to do something help you? Or like me would you find this overwhelming?

The issues seem to be with the family rather than Joe: Joe seems to be quite happy. He is not having a lot of outbursts, and meltdowns, and overall seems to have a good life. Now that does not mean they should not try and help him so that he is more included in family life, and has some of the tools to deal with life as he gets older. But the rushing around and panicking about Joe`s autism, tossing money at it, and acting like there is a time limit on when they can help Joe is all down to the parents. The situation is not urgent, or even bad, but the Mum at least seems to feel that it is. Again I don’t have an issue with this even though it’s the wrong way for her to think, as it’s the way a lot of parents do think before they know better.

The Mother, Alison, seems to think they can make Joe not autistic: Carrying on from my last point it feels as if Joe’s Mum thinks that Joe can be made to be un-autistic. That one day he will be talking all the time, and running round playing with other kids. The thing is even if he does make friends, and start to talk more he will still be just as autistic. A lot of parents of newly diagnosed children seem to see it this way; as if the autism is something their kid caught, and not a natural part of them. One thing that my Mum says comes to mind – she does, and has always, had a great understanding about autism being a part of who I am, and not something that can, or should, be cured. And when she would devise tips and tricks to help me cope with the negative aspects of my autism she would say “It’s not about making you less autistic, it’s about giving you the skills to cope in a world not set up for autistic people.” Most parents catch on to this at some point, but as, the programme shows it can take them a while!

Joe’s sister treats him with a lot of respect: When the family were sitting around the table Joe`s mum asked him if he wanted to try some acting. He thought about it, and said no. But his Mum told his sister to sign him up for it anyway – not paying any attention to the fact that he had said he did not want to do it. It was clear from his sister`s face that this made her uncomfortable, and she said that she would not do it. Again this felt quite true to life.

Alison has a need to be in control of everything: Going back to Joe’s Mum, she seems to have a need to be in control of everything, and everyone around her. She does not take no for an answer, and often does not think about how what she wants will impact on those around her. It does seem that as long as her ideas are followed, and adhered to then she is happy, even if no one else is. But that being said she does not seem like a bad person, just someone who finds it hard to hand over control, or follow a path set by someone else, even her autistic son.

Joe is still walking out alone: So even though they thought they lost him last time out, they are still cool with him walking around on his own. This is the only bit of the show I can’t quite understand; autistic or not, it’s odd that a family would just let their five year old son put on headphones, so he can’t hear any traffic, and walk off down a road, on the off chance someone he knows will grab him, and bring him back.

So those were some of my thoughts. But what did you think? Let me know in the comments.

If you need any more help or advice about Asperger`s/Autism or simply want to talk about it check out our free help and advice service ASK-PERGERS?

Twitter https://twitter.com/ASKPERGERS

Facebook https://www.facebook.com/ASKPERGERS?ref=hl

And have a look at our books (at the time published under pseudonyms, but we did write them trust us on that!)  http://www.jkp.com/catalogue/author/1762

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.

The Rain Man Effect

One of the things that annoys autistic people the most, I have found, is when they tell somebody they have autism, and the person responds with `do you mean like Rain Man?` or something along those lines.  I hadn’t seen the film itself until very recently, but after I watched it I thought I`d write this blog.

 I suppose what it`s really about is whether it`s the portrayal of autism in a film which people dislike, or something more than that.  I personally think that it was quite a good film, and I don’t have any real issues with its portrayal of autism.  The fact is that autism affects everybody differently, and there is no reason that Dustin Hoffman`s character would not have acted and behaved in the ways that he did.  You could take argument with some of the generalisations made by the professionals in the film, but it is a film made, and based in the late eighties when people knew much less about autism than they do now – so it is not particularly unrealistic for medical professionals in the film to make sweeping statements.

 What I think most people take issue with is actually nothing to do with the film itself; it`s the fact that people who may have seen the film once, or maybe even have only seen snatches of it, think that they now know everything they need to know about autism.  They think that everybody on the spectrum will behave in that manner.  It is their only real reference point for autism.  It is that lazy attitude that I think people dislike; as if watching one film tells you all you need to know.

Nowadays there are a lot more portrayals of autistic people in the media.  A few years ago all you used to really see was the random autistic characters who were put in to detective shows so that they could conveniently note down car number plates, or remember details from years before.  These seemed to be characters who were created by people with no real knowledge of the condition – simply recycled versions of older characters.  There was a point a while ago when having characters who were supposed to be quite funny, with obvious traits of Asperger’s`, became quite a popular thing.  I don’t find that offensive, as making people laugh is one of the best ways to get through to them, and make things stick in their minds.  Now you have programmes like Derek and The Bridge; with characters who aren’t point-blank called autistic, but blatantly are.  I would recommend these two shows as a good place to start if you want to learn more about autism, because they portray two people who are on the one hand completely different to each other – extreme ends of the spectrum –but in reality deal with a lot of the same issues.  Also, Derek is obviously male, but displays what is normally perceived to be a very female version of autism, whereas the main character in the bridge portrays what is typically thought of as a very masculine profile of autism.; perhaps the reason why, to the best of my knowledge, neither of them has ever been diagnosed with autism on the shows.

Now I am not saying that if you go away and watch these shows you will have a full understanding of autism, because that would be nonsense.  I don’t think you can ever have a full understanding of anything just from films and books – you need to do research.  And more important that any of those things, you need to talk to autistic people in real life.  The Bridge, Derek, and Rain Man, amongst others, are good portrayals of autism, but because the spectrum is so vast, and complex none of them give you a complete picture.

You also get characters like Roy Cropper in Coronation Street, who is almost a mix of male and female profiles of autism,  Again, I don’t think there has ever really been anything said about whether he has autism or not, but it is fairly obvious to see if you know anything about autism, that he does.  I think that as a lot of people do their learning through what they watch on T.V. or the cinema, the more varied and well-acted performances of characters with autism, or autistic traits there are in T.V. and cinema, the better.  Basically, there is nothing wrong with Rain Man; the problems lies with people judging an entire group of individuals on the basis of one movie.

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