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‘The A Word’ makes a return to our screens…

‘Peter Bowker’s autism drama is back for a welcome second series’.  Not my words, but those of Simon Hattenstone in this week’s Radio Times magazine.  He adds that ‘The A word has had its critics-me included’.  Me too Simon!

Simon Hattenstone goes on to describe the drama as a soap, as a comedy and as an exploration of special needs.

Anyway, the Radio Times (TV listing magazine) devotes a number of column inches to the return of the drama.  Alison Graham the TV critic states that ‘Peter Bowker’s words always ring clear and true’. However I don’t think he’s shown himself to be an accurate portrayer of the diagnosis of Autism if series one was anything to go by. Still, I have to remember it’s a drama, and not a documentary.  You could not compare it, for accuracy and realism, to the recent excellent BBC bio-documentary by Chris Packham ‘Asperger’s and me’.

The series receives further attention in this week’s Radio Times  in an interview with one of its stars- Christopher Eccleston. In this we learn that the writer Peter Bowker is ‘a former special needs teacher’. Clearly that experience, especially if it isn’t recent, hasn’t particularly informed his writing position about the ongoing challenges of living with a child with Autism. I wonder if Bowker will venture into the thorny ground of applying for Disability Living Allowance, Personal Budgets, or getting support for Joe at school in this series?  I very much doubt it, but we shall see.

The apparent justification for the lack of realism, and one of its strengths, is, reveals Christopher Eccleston ‘we’ve not just soapboxed and depressed everybody, we’ve celebrated the fact that people who have a child on the spectrum don’t stop living, they keep moving forward.’

Point taken Christopher, but there was no acknowledgement of the changes that having a child with Autism forces you to make to your life, to accommodate to their needs. Bowker’s writing focussed on the emotional fallout of Joe’s diagnosis in series one.   Let’s see where it takes us in series two.  If Simon Hattenstone is right in his appraisal of The A Word, the exploration of special needs in this drama is going to be low priority – it’s third on his list after all!

I’m just off to email Chris Packham for his view on ‘The A Word’ and to re-connect with Simon Hattenstone as well to share a few thoughts.

You can see ‘The A Word’ on BBC 1 television (UK) from Tuesday 7th November at 9 p.m.