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The A Word : Pure Drama, but impure communication

Well the BBC1 drama continues to grip my attention for all the wrong reasons. It seems, given episode 2, that it’s not only Joe who has communication problems  given his recent ASD diagnosis. We saw his parents (Alison and Paul) completely failing to talk to each other about appropriate ‘schooling’ for Joe.  His mother – without mentioning to dad,- removed him from his very small primary school, to begin home schooling.  Then we saw dad visiting a special school without discussing with his wife until afterwards.  On top of that no-one had any conversation with Joe’s mainstream primary school about what they were doing (had done). And no-one bothered to mention it to Joe, who arrived at school one morning, early, and under his own steam. This really is not a good role model for parental communication, and communication with schools. But I suppose it makes for ‘pure drama’.

Again, all totally unrealistic and sets a bad example for parents of youngsters with a recent ASD diagnosis.

I was particularly shocked at the line uttered by dad ‘There are so many cures available for Autism’. WRONG !  Autism is a lifelong neuro-developmental condition.  Yes there’s lots of amelioration possible, but CURE ? No way.  So misleading. Perhaps the BBC should have included the rider ‘No autism experts were consulted in the  making of this drama’ with the closing titles.

Once again the dubious ‘involvement’ of professionals (notably the ‘expert’ Paediatrician ‘St Michael’) sent a completely inaccurate message to Joe Public.  His saintliness is apparently going to result in an instant referral to a Speech and language therapist for Joe.  Dream on ! Most of my parents wait years to get a referral for SALT or any other professional involvement (e.g. OT)

The irony of the (repetitive) soundtrack of ‘World Shut Your Mouth’ (Julian Cope) was not lost on me !

I’m sorry BBC drama, but there’s only so far I can suspend my disbelief with ‘The A Word’. I’m planning a ‘Psychologist in the Pub’ talk to correct the views, impressions and attitudes which have been so mis-sold to Joe Public about Autism by this drama.

Cheers !



2 Responses to “The A Word : Pure Drama, but impure communication”

  1. Jen April 13, 2016 at 5:08 pm #

    I’ve been reading with amusement these criticisms of the A Word drama, spot on!! I am a parent of a child with ASD and SPD, he was diagnosed since the age of 4 and is now nearly 8. Yes, it’s a drama, and I’m curious to see the characters play out to the end, but you’ve encapsulated my thoughts exactly. Knowing from our very own experience how long it takes to get a diagnosis, how long it takes to get various therapists involved such as SALT and OT, not to mention the Educational Pyschologist – well I just wish it was as simple a process as this drama has made it out to be. It is worrying though, that whilst this is a drama, there are many people watching this and I’ve had comments already from family, friends and even strangers (more about that below), that they now relate this to how it is having a youngster with autism. How wrong they are, it’s totally misleading. First, the mother of the series seems totally ashamed and unable to accept Joe’s diagnosis. Second, even with his diagnosis, she is not seeking proactive help, you’re right, where was the communication ever done at the small village school with teachers to see what they were doing to help Joe? At first, she didn’t want to mention his diagnosis as she was afraid of the impact this would have on other parents finding out and others views on Joe. Wouldn’t you put your child first, and I am yet to meet any parent, whether or not they have a child with special needs, who would allow their child to go out wandering in a desolate, isolated place on their own in the morning. HELLO, stranger danger, let alone, he could hurt himself, or get knocked down by a car (interestingly they showed a stranger appearing in his vehicle and wondering what a young child was doing in the middle of the road walking all by himself). If this were for real, the parents would be reported for neglect to social services. Also, where are the meltdowns depicted in this series so far, when a child with ASD goes into a meltdown, they are beyond reason, it’s like they are having a fit or seizure – Joe has only been shown to shove things aside, then stick his earphones back on and turn up the music. I’ve had a couple of strangers in Tesco ask me whether my Son who wears ear-defenders (as he cannot cope with noise and easily has sensory overload), is listening to music. Whilst some ASD kids likely do listen to music through headphones, the same is not true for my child, he has to find ways to block out too much overload in his environment. The SALT visit also made me laugh, what a rude, arrogant woman – and despite the fact they have depicted her as someone who was bullied by the little boy’s Mum, she discusses no strategies around what she should be doing to try and help her son…..she just gets out her little bag of tricks, sits down with him and then leaves without any discussion (although she had a lot to say about how the parents and family were communicating). This is wrong on so many levels, it’s a shame the BBC didn’t undertake more research for airing such a sensitive topic for this drama. It’s got people talking about autism, but for the wrong reasons.

  2. Dr Hilary Dyer
    Hilary April 13, 2016 at 6:07 pm #

    Hi Jen,

    Thank you so much for taking the time to set out your views. I am so glad and grateful that you have done so. I’ve had lots of my parents of youngsters with ASD email me to express their concerns and disgust. Most have actually stopped watching the programme, as they are so incensed by its content and the portrayal of ASD.

    It was wonderful to read your comment, and the fact that most parents and I are on the same wavelength.

    As you say, let’s try and stick with this to the end, and see how it all resolves – or not!
    Thank you again.

    Kind regards,

    Thank you again.

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