So I’m totally behind on everything this week…Toby’s having a melatonin break and so has been running around until after midnight most night’s and in terms of blogging, my proofreader (Joel) is ill. I did however manage to catch up on The A Word in the early hours of Wednesday morning.

I don’t usually watch drama series…we don’t have a TV licence and I when you’re quite physically and emotionally worn out I then try to avoid anything with a lot of emotional content…I did however make an exception for The A Word.

For anyone who hasn’t heard of it, It’s a drama series on BBC 1 about a family who discover that their son has autism. There have been mixed responses to the program going out and I think my feelings on it are probably mixed too. Every child (with and without additional needs) and every family is different and although what the program showed was very different to our experience, I’m sure many other people could relate in some way.

Toby’s much more towards the severe end of the autistic spectrum and is completely non-verbal. His difficulties were identified much earlier than the character (Joe) in the program too and that’s the thing with autism; it’s a huge spectrum and everyone’s experience are very different.
I’m going to be brief and try not to give too much away incase people haven’t seen it yet, so here is some of my thoughts – 3 positives and 2 negatives – I did say I had mixed feelings!

So positives first…what did I like?

  1. The program portrayed some of the  impacts that additional needs can have on the whole family. Additional stresses, pressures on relationships, hurts, disappointments and frustrations – all very real emotions. All of the family members were at different points in accepting this and in various stages of the grief cycle.
  2. The actor who played Joe was great. The production team have obviously researched well and Joe had some very autisic traits. From problems sleeping, stimming, obsessions, poor eye contact and having to close the door to then open it again to walk through it – I felt it was a realistic representation of ‘an’ autisic kid and that the young actor did a great job.
  3. The program has raised awareness of autism. There has been lots of media attention and has opened up lots of conversations – that can only be a possitive thing right?

So what did I not really like?

  1. The unnecessary sexual content…I felt this was quite over the top…enough said!
  2. The diagnosis. Toby’s diagnosis was pretty obvious and straight forward however no one gets a diagnosis as quick as Joe did in the program! Toby got his not long after his second birthday however the process still took 10 months (which is pretty fast) with lots of appointments, reports and specialists involved.  Some children wait years to even get an initial appointment and a few more years to be assessed. Toby was diagnosed by a SCAT team (social communication assessment team) which includes paediatricians, speech and language therapists, occupational therapists, clinical and educational phycologists with information and reports from portage, home and school/nursery. They all saw Toby several times and wrote reports which were then used as evidence when they met as a team to discuss whether he met all of the criteria. I have friends who have waited years for assessment and even Ted waited 8 months for an appointment just with speech and language.

One of my concerns would be that just as Rainman became the autistic stereotype in the 90’s that people assume that all children with autism walk around with headphones on all day reciting song lyrics. Autism is a huge spectrum with a huge range of abilities and issues. No two children are the same and when you have met one child with autism…you have met one child with autism…that’s it! I hope that the rest of the series shows some of the other difficulties that Joe faces in his day to day life (I do know that he’s fictional…ha!)