The A Word and a New School

The BBC drama, The A Word, is a great way to get everyone talking about Autism. One of my Autism mum friends the other day said we should be promoting Acceptance rather than Awareness. I can see her point, a lot more people are aware of Autism these days and now they learn how to be accepting. However, there are plenty more people out there who know very little about Autism, so how can they accept? Awareness and Acceptance go hand in hand in my opinion.

photograph of the cast of the A Word with a back drop of the lake District
BBC – The A Word

We are now two episodes down in The A Word and just in case you’ve not heard about it, it’s a drama which features a family that have a young child, now 7, called Joe who is autistic. The first series focused on the family becoming used to the diagnosis, finding out all they could about the condition, and looking for cures, which are non-existent. The new series find that they have accepted their son’s autism and are now finding the best way to deal with it. Besides the autism there is loads more going on in the drama, including romance, break-ups, lies, cheats etc. The usual stuff that make up a good drama, with autism as it’s main focal point.

In the second episode we see Joe going to a new school, one with a unit, or centre for children with learning difficulties, or autism. I don’t pair the two together because some autistic children are high functioning and have no learning difficulties.

Autistic children are difficult to place in schools. I think that those that are high functioning generally manage most of primary school okay because most of their behaviour can be put down to immaturity. it’s when they get to secondary school that problems can begin. They are generally bigger, noisier schools and it’s difficult for an autistic child to fit in. The routines are different and the lessons more focused. There is no room for immaturity or idiosyncrasies, or children that don’t fit in the mould.

I’m lucky because although my daughter is in mainstream school, they have everything in place for children with difficulties. The child is allowed to carry on the school day with the other children as much as they can, but if problems arise they have a whole department of the school, including teaching rooms, dining rooms, toilets and shower room, and the children can go there if they wish. Only children with problems are allowed to enter, so it’s a kind of safe haven, especially if there is bullying going on. The school is also very good with dealing with bullying.

My daughter is happy at school, and although she loses a fair bit of time due to her illness, she is coping really well. I think she may make it right through to the end.

She will be my first child to do that. My eldest child was taken out of Secondary School for home education when he was almost 13 years old. The school just had no idea of how to deal with him. He was uncontrollable, angry, violent and being bullied mercilessly. He was incredibly unhappy and after loads of meeting with the school the only option I had was to home school him, or the preferred term these days is home educate.

I found it difficult to control him at home so I was offered a home tutor as help but eventually he was found a place in a special school where he managed to go on and complete his GCSE’s.  A lot of special schools don’t go on to exams so I was lucky to have him one that did.

Last night’s episode of The A Word, we also saw an older boy, called Mark. He was also autistic and his mum was single and it was obvious she had a lot on her hands. The situation reminded me of me and my son as I was also coping with all this while being a single mum. The meltdown scene had me in tears as I remembered how things used to be. I’m sure it would have resonated with a lot of other mum’s with teenage autistic children. I am lucky that once my son had passed through puberty things became so much easier. Now, as long we mostly leave to do his own thing, he gets on fine and rarely has a meltdown. His way of dealing with things that really bother him is to leave the house and walk off his frustration. He’s done this since he was nine years old and now at nearly thirty I still find it stressful.

While I was watching the episode, alone, my eldest son came into the room. He saw the scene where Joe was really upset and wanted to listen to a song he had heard on the radio one more time. My son said ‘they wouldn’t let him go into school like that’ so I told him that it was a special school. He watched for a few seconds more then got up to leave with the comment ‘I’ll leave you in peace to watch your program that’s taking the p*ss out of Autism.’ I was quite stunned. I certainly don’t think that of the drama, but it’s made me think a little more about it. Do Autistic people really want drama’s featuring autism? Does it upset them? It obviously upset my son, but then he only watched one scene, maybe if he’d watched more he’d have felt differently…although maybe not the scene of Mark having a meltdown.

I find myself torn now. I will carry on watching and I hope it does raise awareness and acceptance of autism. But, maybe not in front of my son.

Have you watched The A Word? What do you think of it? Where you aware of autism before or have you learned anything by watching it? I’d love to hear your views.

Joe and his mum and dad from the A Word pictured against a backdrop of the lake district
BBC The A Word

Lucy At Home


  1. November 22, 2017 / 11:19 pm

    I haven't watched it (not had a working aerial for over a year!) but have heard about it. I do think raising awareness is important as, until you have experience of autism, it's difficult to really empathise. I say this as someone with little experience of it personally, but with friends/acquaintances who have autistic children and share experiences on social media that frequently open my eyes to things I hadn't previously considered. #BlogCrush

  2. sensationallearning
    November 26, 2017 / 12:15 am

    Wow, this post raises so many thoughts in my head!
    To answer your questions at the end of it, I missed the whole first season of the A word, but have started following it now, from the beginning of the second series. And I love it. Since I have an autistic son, I was already "aware" (as well as accepting) before watching it.
    To me, it's lovely to watch Joe as he does many things similar to what my kid does, and you don't often see kids on telly who you can relate to in the same way. As my son is still pretty much non-verbal, I don't know what he thinks of the glimpses he's caught of the A word so far. He's been in the room with me while I've been watching it, but he's been busy watching something of his own at the same time, so it's difficult to know how much he's taken in. But he hasn't seemed in any way upset. Also, I don't think he's fully aware of himself being autistic and what that means. Perhaps he might find the show more difficult to watch if he was more aware? Or maybe he'd find it more interesting? Who knows…
    I'm sorry to hear that your son had such a negative reaction to the program. I hope it was just that clip which upset him, and that it's not a general feeling shared by most people on the spectrum. I guess it's a bit like blogging about these things: You wish to share your experiences, to help others or to get advice yourself, to raise awareness etc., but it's always a fine balance between sharing and exposing, always trying to stay respectful as well as truthful. Not always an easy thing… x

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *