This week I had the pleasure of attending the “Prix Jeunesse Suitcase” – a day-long screening of TV shows for children around the world, presented by David Kleeman of the American Center for Children and Media. Much like traveling to other countries, viewing television shows that other nations have created for specifically for children gives me great insight as to our own American culture and values. I could spend hours discussing what I saw (and indeed, there were some great conversations I had while I was there) – but of course, what touched me most was watching a TV special from the UK called, “My Autism and Me.”
“My Autism and Me” was produced by the Newsround on the BBC and aired in 2011. I had actually seen it online before I started this blog, and completely forgot about it until seeing it again at this event. The show is presented by 13-year-old Rosie, who has Aspergers. Several children on the Autism Spectrum are profiled in a really sweet way. Watch it here on Youtube:
I think this TV special does a wonderful job at one thing in particular: Showing that while a diagnosis of autism can make like difficult for these children, they have all accepted it and understand that autism is indeed a part of who they are. One child said it best: “Everyone else is weird. I’m fine.” This is exactly how I’ve come to think of autism for Quentin… or how I am trying to. I have started reading Andrew Solomon’s book, Far From the Tree, and I cannot help but think of it when I watch this video. The children profiled here have a clear sense of self and seem content with who they are, even if they get frustrated by the outside world sometimes. I can only hope my child grows up to be like this.
The one thing I wish this special did more of, however, is portray a wider range on the Autism Spectrum. There was only one non-verbal child with “classic” (i.e. “low-functioning”) autism; the rest of the children seemed to closer to the “high-functioning”/ Asperger’s end of the Spectrum. I desperately wanted to see a child closer to the middle.
When I came home from the screening, I showed “My Autism and Me” to Fiona, who has become increasingly interested in autism and what that means for Quentin. I wanted to share these other versions of autism, and the sense of pride and acceptance that comes from this video. It was a wonderful co-viewing experience, because it allowed her to ask questions. She asked some really good ones, too, like: “I have hobbies, too – does that mean I have autism?” or “Do grown-ups have autism?” Watching this together allowed us to talk about autism in a different way than we normally do.
I highly recommend this video as a family co-viewing experience. It could benefit siblings like Fiona, seeking to understand autism better. It could benefit parents, grandparents, and caregivers who struggle to understand what autism feels like. Lastly, it could benefit those children on the Spectrum, looking to find kids on screen who they can identify with.
What did you think of this special?