Wednesday, 8 November 2017

The A Word - Talking to an Autistic Child about Autism

The BBC drama, The A Word, is back on for it's second series. I really enjoyed the first series and blogged after at lot of the episodes as I have two Autistic children myself.

courtesy of Keshet International


The A Word is a drama, not a documentary, it may resonate with parents of autistic children, but probably not with all of them. It also has plenty of story for drama lovers who do not know anyone with autism. The best thing about The A Word is that it brings more awareness for Autism which can be a good thing.

Many years ago Autism was a condition that was hidden away, it was under diagnosed as parents covered up their child's differences and labelled them as difficult rather than disabled. I almost fell into that category myself which is why my eldest was not officially diagnosed until he was twelve years old.

Having a diagnosis opens up the doors for treatment and help but it's never been easy. I think this is where the drama, The A Word, will explore next. This is something which will resonate with most parents of Autistic Children, whether they can compare their child to the child in the drama or not.

The A Word  focuses on the family lives surrounding Joe, a seven year old Autistic boy and his parents, Alison and Paul. In the last series we saw Joe getting his diagnosis and his mum finding it difficult to accept, she wanted treatment and cures, she wanted to do all she could to make him 'well' again. Of course, this is not possible, Autism is a life long condition. You can see improvements, all kids grow and mature and this is true of most Autistic kids too. The spectrum of Autism is huge and even though it's a cliche it's true when they say that 'when you meet one child with Autism, you meet one child with Autism.' I have two children with Autism and they are both different, they have their similarities too.

The first episode of the second series of The A Word, shows a more accepting family. Two years on they have accepted Joe for the sum of all his parts, including his Autism and now are trying to make others accept him too. In particular his school, where  Mum, Alison, talks to the other parents about Joe, explaining that he is different and that the children should accept that some children may be different which will pave the way for more accepting adults in the future. This doesn't seem to go down too well though and Alison and Paul have decided to move Joe to a school which understands his needs. This is something that many parents of Autistic Children find extremely difficult so it's a great topic to explore.

Also, in this first episode, Alison and Paul realise that Joe is also beginning to understand that he is different and they decide to talk to him about Autism.

This is something that most Parents of Autistic Children will face at some point. It depends mostly on the severity of the Autism and the acceptance of the family to their child's Autism. With my eldest I had no idea why he was the way he was. I never questioned why he was different and tried to make him behave the same as the other children, I encouraged him to have lots of friends and our home was usually full of little faces. I pushed to the back of my mind his lack of interaction with these children, in my head he had loads of friends. I knew he was clever at school, even if he was disruptive and 'naughty' at times. I put it down to him being so clever he got bored easily. In my mind, if he was clever, then there couldn't be anything wrong with him.

When I finally admitted that something could be wrong I took him to see the GP, where at 10 years old he kept dragging the chair around the room while I was trying to speak, or sat upside down making silly noises. The GP said I was depressed and gave me some pills. My son laughed at me all the way home.

At twelve years, we finally got to see a psychologist, who decided, as he sat in the corner eating the sole of his shoes, that he was, in fact, on the Autistic spectrum. He was old enough and clever enough to understand that he had been diagnosed so I never had the problem of when to tell him.

My younger daughter was just six years old when she was diagnosed. I had known from birth, it's one of those things that if you've been through once, you just know. I didn't do anything about it until other people started noticing. I wasn't sure if it was just me or if indeed she was Autistic. I didn't want her to be Autistic, I wanted to be wrong, so waiting for someone else to point it out was, in my mind, the only way to be sure. We went along for the assessments and the diagnosis was pretty quick. But, because she was so young there had to become a time when we had to tell her.

I really can't remember a specific time of sitting her down and telling her she was Autistic. I think we just mentioned it casually and answered questions as needed. Her teachers needed to be told and they talked about it with her too. She has had good experiences with her schools which has been a relief. My biggest worry was her transition to Secondary School but she has managed really well because her school is good, they understand Autism and have everything in place to help her. I am pleased that she is coping in mainstream school and I really hope it continues. We already know there are very little options otherwise.

Raising awareness of Autism is a good thing, getting people to talk about it is great. For too long people have had misconceptions about Autism and even been afraid of it, now it's time for understanding and acceptance, Autism isn't going to go away and it's something that could suddenly appear in anyone's family. No-one is immune.

The A Word is helping to raise that awareness by portraying Autism in a family setting, with lots of other family drama going on around it. Even if you don't like the story line or the characters you must surely enjoy the gorgeous views of the Lake District!

Have you seen The A Word?
What did you think of it, has it made you more aware of Autism?
If you have an Autistic Child when did you tell them they were Autistic, or why haven't you told them?


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