It was the final part of ‘The A Word’ on BBC last night and finally the family seemed to have come to terms with their son’s autism diagnosis; they finally uttered the words out loud to their neighbours, which was a massive step for them as they had previously wanted to protect him from the stigma of being different. I felt that I could relax now that they had admitted to themselves ,and to their community, that Joe was autistic as it had felt like a guilty secret before then. The reality of course was that their neighbours may not have been able to name or identify the boy’s disability, but of course they recognised his difference, so the admission was primarily for the parents. To watch them squirm to find the words to describe Joe’s behaviour to the willing search party when he was lost, was agony as they were desperately trying to avoid the word ‘autistic’. His parents really thought that nobody knew their son was not ‘normal’, and I can relate to that: when he was at pre-school age, I was amazed several times when strangers recognised, just from watching him, that Joshua had special needs. I really thought that he appeared ‘normal’ and was blind to whatever it was that they were seeing.
But the most poignant moment of the drama for me, was when Joe’s Dad voiced his grief for the normal ‘boy that was inside Joe’. His autism was regarded as a condition that had destroyed the son that they should have had, or at the very least had hidden him from view, and he mourned that loss. When Joshua was at mainstream primary school, we were offered ‘bereavement counselling’ – to be able to grieve for the son that we ought to have had and for the hopes and dreams that we had buried. I was shocked by the suggestion at the time and dismissed it as a ridiculous notion. But who knows, perhaps to have undergone the counselling might have saved us a lot of heartache in the long-run.
This BBC drama is finished now I believe and I have enjoyed it immensely : I have loved the quality writing, acting and the stunning scenery of the Lakes. But most of all I have enjoyed the reflections that it has given me each week, as I applied what I saw, to my own experiences.