Thoughts & Musings on the BBC’s Drama: The A Word, currently running on Tuesdays at 9pm on BBC1.
Parents to a child with an ASD diagnosis, or doing their Diagnosis Duck Waddle, are like bees to honey when it comes to new info on how the World Sees Autism. It’s personal you see. We want to scout out what you think. Are you judging? What’s the view like from the other side? Do you understand? Do you care?
You see, perspective is damn near impossible for us. Because we live it. Autism is there, in our lives, day in day out whether we like it or not. It’s there when we’re making our 1001th prediction of parenthood for the day, in a bid not to let the goo of Autism crap on the whole family from a great height. Even if we laugh at the chaos.
So along comes something in mainstream culture, and us Autism parents, we’re gonna come flocking. And that’s what The A Word is – a mainstream portrayal of Autism in one family. But just as the saying goes: If you know one person with Autism, you know one person with Autism, the first episode of The A Word didn’t quite hit the Autism spot for me, for my experience of Autism. And I wonder if it’s ‘got it’ for anyone other than those who haven’t lived with Autism.
I Want to Bash Some Heads Together
Seriously. I want to get the Mum’s head and bash it in to the Dad’s. I want to get the Grandad’s head and smash it in to a table. A non-Autistic boy would be flailing in the midst of that chaos. Get a grip parents and pull your socks up. But, that wouldn’t make such interesting mainstream viewing.
Joe, Joe, Little Joe
And then conversely there’s Joe, the Autist himself. And yes, maybe it’s in recognition of just what Autism has done to our perception, that Kiwi Dad and I looked at each other and said “he’s not that bad is he?” You see, the lying on the floor ‘meltdown’ of the party wasn’t so much of a ‘melt’ as it was down. I could handle silent lying in the middle of the floor meltdowns, over trying to rip his own ears off whilst screaming meltdowns any day.
Then there’s the music. Now that is pretty like Boo. When he was just a tot he would hear a song on the radio and say the artist. He loves music, lyrics, tunes. Don’t mess with them. Being somewhat more morbid than Joe however, his ‘recollection of random facts’ is to tell you whether the artist is alive or dead, and if they are dead, the year that they died. It’s a conversation killer.
But that’s what’s also missing in The A Word. The fact that sometimes, quite often in fact, Autism is just plain funny. Get me, I’m laughing at the Disabled Kid. But I’m not. He’s laughing. He’s there seeing the world differently and making it hilarious in the process. His take on the world, and ability to make people laugh, is what lightens the load. And well Joe, he just ain’t funny. Yet.
Spectrum Meets Mainstream
And therein lies the conundrum. The spectrum that is Autism encompasses such a vast range of characters, traits, quirks and behaviours, that it’s gonna be a tall order to depict in one series. But it does do something good: it raises the profile of Autism. It raises the intricate dynamics that come in to play. It makes us, the mainstream us, think about Autism. And for all of us out there treading the Autism eggshells, that’s a good thing. Get it out there, get it acknowledged, get it seen.
However, as this Review points out – The A Word, so far, is too dull to be a true representation of the crazy ride that is living under the same roof as Autism. “Autism may be many things, but it is never, ever dull”. The drama in The A Word is in the adult’s and the usual Drama-Mix-Up of affairs, lack of political correctness and relationships. Not Autism.
But like the Bee to Honey that I am, I will be back for more. What are your thoughts on the first episode of The A Word?