The A Word and the Un-accepting Mum.

As you know I’ve been avidly watching the A-Word, the BBC drama on Tuesday evening at 9pm.

Last week the mother of the newly diagnosed autistic child was not painted in a very nice light. As a result she’s not been getting much love or support from the community in general. This week, again she was seen as pushy and un-accepting of her son’s diagnosis, desperately wanting him to suddenly be normal. This was shown by her excitement when her child showed empathy and more understanding of his world while running a fever. Generations of parents of autistic children have reported that when their child is running a fever their autistic symptoms seem to abate. I cannot vouch whether this is true or not, it’s not something I’ve experienced with my children.

I’ve been in the situation where I refused to accept my child’s differences. When the school said they were worried, I went out and bought loads of educational tools and sat with him day after day, making sure he was more than ready to do the work they provided for him at school. In fact, it wasn’t the work he ever had trouble with, it was his behaviour. This was just me in denial. In my head, because I knew nothing at all about autism at the time, I thought it meant that he had learning difficulties and refused to believe that any child of mine could be born ‘stupid.’ Forgive me, I was young and naive.

The diagnosis period was an extremely difficult time. Even though I’d come to terms with there being a problem, in particular, one that I couldn’t solve myself, it was still hard to believe it couldn’t be fixed with some magical wand or something. Acceptance is difficult, this your child they are talking about!

The drama also showed the mother feeling ‘locked out’ while she saw other’s able to communicate with her son in a way she was unable to. She was jealous, and it showed. I too have experienced this. Not with my son, but with my younger daughter. She  is high functioning and very verbal, but her behaviour seems so much different with others than it does with me. She relates mostly to her dad, she loves it when he’s been totally silly, he can always make her laugh. I’m the serious one, the one that refuses to read her books backwards or in a silly voice. She hugs him far more than she hugs me. Her excuse is I smell minty, I don’t even like mints but I tried to hug her once shortly after cleaning my teeth and she hates the smell of mint. I do feel jealous a lot, but I try not to let it show. It’s not her fault, or her Dad’s.

The drama also shows the neurotypical ( autistic) child being pushed aside and ignored. The daughter, Rebecca, is always being let down by her mother, she gets ignored, is the subject of snappy retorts whenever she dares express her opinion, and feels as though she is being pushed out of the family. She ends up confiding all her personal stuff with her uncle and his wife. My children have been closer in age but I’ve still been guilty of planning things based on the autistic child’s needs rather than their siblings. Sibling have missed out on days out, parties and probably loads more at some point during their lives. Eventually things have evened out and I’ve worked out how to make life easier on the siblings, but at the beginning I couldn’t help it, I didn’t know how I could do things better. It’s a steep learning curve.

So what about Alison, the mum in the tv program? Is she really so awful? Why do people hate on her so? It’s as if the program is deliberately set out to make her not very likeable.

In my personal opinion, I think differently. I think she’s probably more realistic than any mum would like to admit. We all think that we would go that extra mile for our children, but do we do it forsaking all others in the family? Do other siblings suffer because of our mission to do the best for one child? Do we feel jealous when other people find a way to reach our child that we seem unable to reach? Do we wish that our children were perfect or at the very least not too different to other children? If we are honest we have probably been through similar stages like this whether our child has autism or not. I think Alison is a fair representation of a mum of an autistic child. Even if it’s only for a small part of our lives we can feel and act the way she has done.

I actually feel sorry for Alison. I’m sure she will come to terms with it eventually, accept her son for the way he is. She will still jump through hoops to help him in whichever way she can, but then she’ll be perceived as the fierce mother who will do anything for her child, rather than the demon she is coming across as because of her un-acceptance of her child’s condition.

What do you think? Would you admit to relating to  some of Alison’s faults or do you think she is just a bossy, a bully and generally unlikable character?

The A Word – BBC1

Sons, Sand & Sauvignon



  1. April 15, 2016 / 1:44 pm

    When my son was first diagnosed I felt immediate relief only because for years I had been blamed for his behaviour. After that eased I then shutdown, ie I couldn't talk about it for months. After that passed I then started reading books on autism and slowly learned about my son. I then stopped reading books as I no longer needed them because I realised that my best teacher was my son (and then my daughter). By following their lead and bring sensitive to their reactions to things I started to adjust my parenting and expectations. It took time, years probably, but now those labels have dropped away. With regard to the character in the drama, I don't recognise her reactions post diagnosis in me. Maybe that's because my son was older at diagnosis and I had got accustomed to the idea that my son was not developing as he should. However I do recognise her fierceness in me when dealing with professionals and trying to get the right support for my children. It's impossible not to become fierce when there are so many barriers to overcome. Sadly I feel that that fierceness is seen negatively particularly by professionals who often dont understand our children or us. I wonder whether the negative reaction to her is that we don't, generally, like fierce mothers? Deb

  2. Lola - Parenting By Numbers
    April 16, 2016 / 7:45 am

    Hi! I genuinely think she is quite and unlikeable character. I will always admit that many parents struggle to cope with their child's diagnosis but I just think by just showing this struggle it is perpetuating it with the general public. Maybe I'm far to optimistic for my own good but I think if they'd started her acceptance earlier it would highlight the fact that there's actually nothing "wrong" with Joe.
    I obviously struggle to know what people unaffected by autism think of the show but am aware that the programme is focusing far more on the families feeling than Joe's xx

  3. April 19, 2016 / 7:47 am

    I felt unable to watch the programme for a number of reasons, mainly that it would be too painful. It sounds to me like Alison is like many mums of autistic children, just normal, with faults and longings just like everyone else. Sad to hear that she is being condemned by some x

  4. April 21, 2016 / 1:30 pm

    I have three episodes to catch up on! Need to watch them so I can comment. 🙂 X

  5. April 24, 2016 / 9:21 am

    I am still yet to catch up, I think I actually find it really hard to watch because I relate to Alison so very much, and the harsh response she is getting upsets me. I think the BBC have exaggerated her response to Joe's diagnosis slightly but I agree, we have all seen ourselves in Alison at one point or another. Thank you for linking up to #spectrumsunday I hope you join me again this week. I would also like to congratulate you on you being shortlisted in the MADs! So happy for you! xx

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