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The A Word : Series finale ‘The Fells are alive, with the sound of music’

The paradox of Joe’s lone walking reached new heights this week. For the last five weeks we have become accustomed to Joe taking himself off for a walk on the Cumbrian Fells, and no one much bothering or caring. This week he decides to go walkabout from Ralph’s house and it triggers a massive search by Police and villagers. At the ‘briefing’ convened by Inspector Lemon Curd, Alison tries to explain Joe’s difficulties without using The A Word. So she describes him as having ‘a bit of a problem with his hearing’ and ‘a bit different to other five year olds… he doesn’t do what you think he might do’.  It’s left to Inspector Curd to say ‘He’s on the Autism Spectrum. He’s Autistic’.  Mum Alison picks up this with ‘he loves pop music’. Cue everyone in the search party variously playing music through every known amplification device known to man. Another paradox : can he hear it when he is wearing his headphones?

Another gripe I have with the script during the manifold search scenes was excessive use of the single word utterance ‘Joe’ by everyone. A bit lazy, but must have been a doddle to write and direct !

Amidst all this, Ralph comes under suspicion for his involvement in Joe’s disappearance. Just to remind you – in case you missed it, as I did – Ralph is the teenage son of Louise (granddad’s lady friend). Ralph happens to have DS and a history of ‘touching a girl on the leg on a bus but it was in complete innocence’.  I hope that organisations like  Mencap, and the DS Association were as up in arms as I was about this portrayal of Ralph. Perpetuating these myths and stereotypes of people with DS does no one any favours.

Any road up, as we say whence I originate, Joe is found sitting in a bus shelter, complete with headphones, having been doubtless oblivious to the unfolding dramatic search and cacophony.

The most authentic scene in the whole episode was when Louise, Ralph’s mum launched into assertive advocate mode for her son, when Alison became very emotional and accusatory toward Ralph about Joe’s disappearance. Now if Alison could just learn those parenting skills for Joe, she’d be able to help him so much more.

Dear Reader, if this blogpost lacks the previous sparkle in my writing, I apologise. The truth of the matter is this…

The A Word has felt like someone you’ve been dating for six weeks and you still don’t know any better than you did on the first date. I feel cheated. I’ve lost several hours of my life that I can’t get back.

So please BBC drama commissioners, and Peter Bowker, do us all in the Autism Community two favours : one, don’t try and paint a picture of Autism when you can barely hold a paintbrush, and two, please don’t bother to re-commission a second series. I, for one, will not be watching. 🙁

Thank you all for your feedback and comments about my blog on The A Word.

‘It’s Good Night from me, and Good Night from him’.


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