The ‘A’ Word – A story about Joe, a child on the Autistic Spectrum, and his family

The new BBC Drama The ‘A’ Word gives an extremely realistic view of what it is like to have a child with autism, as it follows a 6 year old boy, Joe, who has been ‘diagnosed as on the Autistic Spectrum’ and his family.

It is rare that we see the challenges and emotions the parents have to go through when their child is diagnosed, we have many documentaries to give us information and allow us to understand things from a child with autism’s point of view, but it is unusual to see how this affects the family.

The first episode kicked off on Tuesday 22nd March on BBC1 and is thought-provoking, funny, heart-wrenching and completely realistic. The child playing the Joe (Max Vento) doesn’t actually have autism, although you would never know! The director decided it would have been unethical to cast a child with autism; people with autism find it difficult to process emotions and acting on screen may be a stressful experience.

This programme doesn’t beat around the bush; it really shows how something like this can affect the family dynamics; Joe’s mum worries about his sociability whilst his grandad sees autism as something that can be fixed. We see how the different ways of thinking can cause people to clash.

This is a brilliant start to getting people to talk more about autism and to understand how it affects the person and their families. But also to show that autism isn’t a ‘bad’ thing to have, it is what it is.

In recent years, there has been a stigma around autism and, and people’s understanding of the spectrum as a whole is blurred. This programme demonstrates how people deal with all aspects of autism on a day to day basis and offers people with little knowledge a much stronger grasp of the varied ranges of the Autistic Spectrum as a whole. It delves into the lives of Joe’s family, and how they each react to his diagnosis and offers an insight into their feelings around it, as well as the struggles along the way.

The writer of the series, Peter Bowker, also wrote the critically acclaimed ‘Marvellous’, which starred Toby Jones, which offered a comic but honest view to living with a Learning Difficulties.