As you know I am enjoying the BBC drama, ‘The A Word’ about a family with a young autistic boy in it and the whole family’s struggles to come to terms with his diagnosis. On Tuesday night, Joshua obliged beautifully by settling in bed at 8.50 so that I could watch it, this week, in real time and two things struck me most about the episode:
- The mother is so fiercly protective of her son, so much the Lioness with her vulnerabe cub, that she is accused of being a bully. She screams at, and even bribes, a therapist who connects with her son but refuses to help them on a regular basis, but refers him on. While it may be for dramatic effect, I can relate to this mother. She has been seeking help and has been lost in the wildernes of autism, she finally finds someone who appears to be able to relate to him, to get the best from him, but will not help. Her desperation is clear and she loses sight of anything else. I know that most mothers will fight for their children, to ensure they get the best that they need, but there seems to be an extra drive in the parents of of children with special needs: maybe it is because we have to fight for everything from the minute they are born, or diagnosed? or maybe it is because they cannot fight for themselves so easily? Whatever the reason, in Joshua’s 15 years, I have met with some pretty ferocious lionesses and I see myself as one too.
- There was a really tender scene that made me cry, although admittedly, that is pretty easy to do. The mother was trying her hardest to use the techniques that the therapist had used to encourage Joe to switch off his music in order to eat his breakfast cereal. There was a battle of wills and in the end, he threw the cereal onto the kitchen floor and she withdrew, totally frustrated. The teenaged sister calmly poured her brother another bowl of cereal, gently encouraged him to remove his music headphones, they shared a moment together and she ruffled his hair. While she resents her parents for neglecting her in favour of Joe, she does not blame him at all, rather she often rescues him from tense family rows. The beautiful sibling relationship was so well portrayed. I know a couple of families where an older sibling has this protective and loving relationship with their brother with special needs. As an only child, it is a relationship that I am sad that Joshua has never known really.
Evidently not everyone enjoys the emotional roller coaster of such dramas, but I do if they are well done and not too unbelievable. Generally my television viewing is escapism, so this choice might seem odd. I enjoy comparing this fictious family’s experience to my own and I enjoy the exercise of reviewing the accuracy of the storyline and narrative.Giving me an extra insight into how other families cope and what they might go through.Otherwise when I meet other parents, I only have my own experiences to help me to empathise and bond. Empathy is a useful skill that I use a lot when I meet new individuals. Next time at the school parent coffee morning, as well as discussing the books that we have found helpful, we may add ‘The A Word’ to our topics of discussion and hopefully it will not generate tears, but laughter. As there is humour, when you look for it, in these tales.Each special needs parent may be as pleased as me that these family struggles have made it to mainstream, primetime television and if nothing else, there might be more widespread acknowledgement of the difficulties that such families face and some recognition.