What Watching ‘The A Word’ Was Like as a Person With Autism

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Well, what can I say? Except that was by far the best program I have ever seen on autism. I am not great at expressing emotions, but I cried throughout certain parts of the one-hour show.

I was a bit skeptical about this show considering most of the others have been stereotypical and focused mainly on our negative traits and “fixing us,” etc., but “The A Word” was completely different from that. I was blown away, and as a person with autism I can say I am impressed and am unable to get over the brilliance of not only the storyline, but the acting, the information, and how they got the traits down to a T. I would easily watch it again right now.

I feel this program changes everything, and if you have not seen it I would highly suggest for you to find a way to watch it, as I could relate to aspects of the character Joe’s life from when I was a child. Parents have been messaging me and telling me they could relate Joe’s traits to their son or daughter, and I can easily see why.

The birthday party scenario was perfect, and it’s true that many people with autism do not get invited to birthday parties. We could send out invitations, but not receive any back. We can feel isolated from the rest of the world, and I feel this party situation (and the football situation) showcased that perfectly. The acting was not false, and I believed every minute of it.

They also focused on many of the positive traits, including intelligence, love and communication in our own special way. One particular quote I enjoyed from the show was, “A cure? It’s not a disease.” And another was how the doctor expressed that autism is not child-exclusive. She did not say that in so many words, but after mentioning all the traits do not present themselves at 5 years old, I thought it was described brilliantly.

The parents arguing, the fall-out with other family members was handled with such realism that I thought I was actually a part of the show. And the special interest with music? That’s what I could relate to the most. The need for headphones for many of us when in a crowded environment was explained well, as well as meltdowns and communicating via our special interest. When it sometimes appears like we’re ignoring you when we’re not, and instead we have difficulty processing information.

Difficulty with sleep, interacting with peers, facial expressions — all done faultlessly, and not one trait was expressed in an over the top manner, which surprised me. Usually at least one of the traits of any TV show or movie is taken to the next level so that it almost seems comical. But no, it was excellent.

I would rate the first episode of “The A Word” 10/10 for its sheer brilliance at tackling a subject so close to home, and all the actors and actresses pulled it off. It deserves an award. I can’t wait to watch and review episode two.

I would go as far as to say it has the potential to change how the general public views autism for the better. It has its negatives and positives, but that’s the reality of it. They kept it real, and damn, here come the tears again.

I believe the show will have a positive impact on the autism community because of the way they showcased the reality of how autism affects the individuals and their loved ones. It did not over-stereotype a specific trait, and they got it perfect. It had such a great impact on me personally as someone with autism because I could see myself as a child and how much I struggled. I had a strong emotional connection to Joe, and it is something that will stay with me for the rest of my life. I would recommend this show to anyone.

Bryan’s review complete, over and out! Please watch “The A Word”!

A version of this post originally appeared on the Asperger’s Syndrome Awareness — Bryan’s Advocacy Facebook page.

The Mighty is asking the following: Describe a scene or line from a show or movie that’s stuck with you through your experience with disability, disease or mental illness. If you’d like to participate, please send a blog post to [email protected] Please include a photo for the piece, a photo of yourself and 1-2 sentence bio. Check out our Submit a Story page for more about our submission guidelines.

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New Show on APT Will Feature Boy With Autism

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Charlie Owens, 11, who lives in St. Louis, Missouri, will appear on a new children’s show called “Mack & Moxy,” in an upcoming episode about inclusion. Owens has autism, and Easter Seals, a nonprofit that supports children and adults on the spectrum, recommended him to be on the program, according to Disability Scoop.

In “Mack & Moxy,” kids appear as themselves, and after a few minutes, they are transformed into animated “Trooper” characters to assist Moxy the raccoon and Mack the moose. Celebrities like Rachael Ray and Josh Duhamel also appear on the show as “Admirables,” and Hank Azaria voices the character of Shellfish Sheldon.

In an episode titled, “A Spectrum of Possibilities,” Mack and Moxy are joined by Owens, or “Trooper Charlie,” and the group meet a bird who also has autism, according to a plot synopsis on TV Guide.

“One of our writers wanted to ensure an episode in season one focused on autism inclusion because his child is on the spectrum,” Kellee McQuinn, co-executive producer for the show told The Mighty. “Everyone has been so passionate about this particular episode and we all understood the sensitivities of having a child with Autism star in a national television show. Charlie’s not an actor; and together we worked together to make sure he was comfortable on the set and well prepared before it came time to taping and recording his episode.”

Check local listings to see when “Mack & Moxy” is on near you.

Clarification: “Mack and Moxy” is distributed by American Public Television (APT). The Mighty previously reported that it was a PBS show. PBS stations will be airing the program, but it is not distributed by PBS or PBS Kids.

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Why 'The King's Speech' Speaks to Me as a Mother of a Son with Autism

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One of my favorite movies is “The King’s Speech.” It is an Academy-award winning (Best Picture, Best Actor, Best Director, Best Screenplay) historical drama based on King George VI’s battle with stuttering and the speech therapist who helped him. Following the abdication of Edward VIII, he was crowned King George VI and saw Great Britain through the Battle of Britain and World War II.

When it was released, some critics and historians pointed out that the movie was not a true story, but a “true-ish” story, with some facts changed, eliminated, or Hollywood-ified — the difference between a drama and a documentary. Regardless of whether it is actually, wholly true, I love its story of quiet bravery, both that of the Duke and Lionel Logue, his speech therapist. I am moved by the respect they developed for each other, and the friendship they developed while navigating around significant cultural, social and economic differences. It is a beautiful movie with gentle humor and dignity.

As a parent of a child on the autism spectrum, “The King’s Speech” has many layers for me. Like some iterations of autism, stuttering was perceived for many generations to be the result of some kind of personal “failing” — failing to control nervousness, fear, or a lack of self-discipline. Like autism, researchers now realize that the causes of stuttering have measurable neurological and physiological origins. Like autism, the causes of stuttering are complicated and not yet wholly understood.

I believe that my son enjoys watching “The King’s Speech” in part because on some level, he can recognize the similarities between the king’s experiences and his own. He sees a man who was born into wealth and power, who has a life many people wish for, but who, like my son, must learn to live with and adapt to challenges that simply came with being who he was, royal title notwithstanding. He may find comfort in the realization that if a king had to adapt, maybe it isn’t so bad that he has to adapt to achieve his goals, too.

In King George VII my son can see a man who had to face his fears on a daily basis — whether it was public speaking, dealing with his overbearing father, or shouldering the burden of leadership — and doing so with dignity and perseverance. My son deals with his fears on a daily basis when he walks out the door to go to school, sits in a classroom being the only child on the spectrum, and adapts his behavior and needs to his neurotypical peers. He sees how friendships can be made in unexpected circumstances, the value of someone who sees a person not a disability, and how challenges can be turned into strengths.

“The King’s Speech” is a movie I have watched many times. It is meaningful to me not only as a great Academy-award winning film, but because it speaks to me as an Autism Mom.

Follow this journey on Autism Mom.

The Mighty is asking the following: Describe a scene or line from a movie that’s stuck with you through your experience with disability, disease or mental illness. If you’d like to participate, please send a blog post to [email protected] Please include a photo for the piece, a photo of yourself and 1-2 sentence bio. Check out our Submit a Story page for more about our submission guidelines.

Lead photo source: YouTube

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Why We Need to Talk About Autism and Self-Harm

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I can remember like it was yesterday — the day we were told my son is autistic. I have to say, I was overwhelmed by my conflicting emotions.

I didn’t know how to feel, what to do or how to react. I was numb.

In the days that followed, it began to slowly sink in, and really, to be honest, nothing had changed. Except deep down I felt a sense of relief that I had been right all along. And at the end of the day it was just a label. My son was no different; he was still him.

Life ticked on as usual.

What I did next I presume all parents do at one time or another — I found myself with the laptop on my knee Googling “autism.” I just couldn’t help myself.

And oh my goodness what a load of rubbish there is out there on the Internet. It’s enough to scare parents half to death. So much misinformation and ignorance to be found with every click of the mouse. It made me want to wrap him head to toe in cotton wool to protect him from the world.

I also vividly recall sort of mentally ticking so called “symptoms” off like a list.

Well yeah, he does this.

And I suppose sometimes he does that too.

Oh, but no not that… He never does that.

I comforted myself when I stumbled across the links between autism and self-injury. Children who do that must be really “severe,” I thought to myself.

I was wrong.

The anxiety that lives inside my son kind of moves and shifts; it confuses and lulls you into a false sense of security. Its symptoms can increase and decrease according to its environment. And “high-functioning” label didn’t mean my son got a free ticket to bypass the more worrying and far less talked about sides to autism – like self-injury and anxiety.

I soon realized his anxiety could consume him. I love my little man more than life itself, but if you told me if I could lessen his anxiety somehow, my reply would have to be, “Where do I sign up?”

If the doctor had told me that one day in the not-so-distant future my son would have self-injurious behaviors (SIBs), I would have cried there and then. No one wants that for their child, autism or no autism.

But this is exactly where we found ourselves last year, drowning in an ever-spiraling
whirlpool of anxiety. This vicious cycle engulfed him, and I just couldn’t drag him from the darkness. It broke my heart. If I could, I would have swapped places with him in a heartbeat; I just wanted to take his pain away.

He became so consumed by his anxiety that it became extremely challenging for him to learn at school. Just the process of getting there was draining him.

So we put his world on pause and reduced his school attendance to two hours a day. We had to reassess everything and modify his environment drastically for the sake of his mental health.

It was a long and slow journey to recovery — I mean months, not weeks. But we had fun. We went swimming and dive-bombed in the deep end of the pool, savoring each experience and taking our time. We walked the dogs and got wet and muddy; we baked cakes, making a right old mess of the kitchen. And yes we learned math and English, but in his own way, not mine. Until slowly day by day he began to laugh and smile a little more.

He has started at a new school full-time and is genuinely happy there. So his anxiety has shifted again; it no longer consumes his every waking thought.

I knew what my son needed to get better; the world needed to mould around him. And the people around him needed to be flexible, following his lead, truly accepting him for who he was, and then and only then he would trust them to keep him safe and let go of his worries.

I fear that too often our kids are bent so much to fit into our world that they simply snap under the pressure, and this is where they encounter so many problems. Too often, the education systems are just so inflexible.

So you see, now I will never take anything for granted or make assumptions about autism ever again. I will never again think my son cannot possibly be affected in certain ways, and I will always look beyond the label.

Self-harm/self-injury affects approximately 50 percent of people with autism at one point in their lifetime, and I strongly believe we should be talking about this more than we do. It shouldn’t be something only discussed in the doctor’s office or behind closed doors.

As hard as this has been to share, I hope by reading it you can be stronger than I was, and act sooner. Don’t let your child be bent to snapping point. It’s truly my biggest regret.

My son is proof that there is always a light at the end of the tunnel, our kids have so
much to teach us about living in the moment; the dark days can become distant memories. And I am learning that my son has far more to teach me than sitting down and Googling “autism” on my laptop can any day of the week. All I have to do is learn from him, follow his lead and be strong.

Follow this journey on A Slice of Autism.

If you or someone you know needs help, see our suicide prevention resources.

If you need support right now, call the Suicide Prevention Lifeline at 1-800-273-8255.

The Mighty is asking its readers the following: What’s one part about you or your loved one’s disability and/or disease that no one talks about? If you’d like to participate, please send a blog post to [email protected] Please include a photo for the piece, a photo of yourself and 1-2 sentence bio. Check out our Submit a Story page for more about our submission guidelines.

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Mom Fires Back After Gymnastics Studio Denies Daughter With Autism

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Tia Crowe’s 3-year-old daughter Bella was recently denied admission to a gymnastics class at Creative Arts Academy in Gladstone, Missouri, due to her autism, and Crowe took to Facebook to express her outrage over the situation.

Crowe told local news station KCTV she chatted with an employee about enrolling, but when she revealed Bella has autism, she was told another staffer would give her a call back.

Crowe received the following voice message:

Tia, this is Diane at Creative Arts Academy, and Megan told me that you had called on Friday and were interested in a Tumble Jungle class for your 3-year-old daughter with autism, and we are sorry, our instructors are not trained for special needs classes, and I don`t think it would be fair to your little girl, or to bring her in to one that we don`t have some training in that. So I’m sorry and hopefully you can find some program for her. Thank you.

It was hurtful,” Crowe told Gladstone’s Fox 4 News. “I feel like she was just being judged.” Crowe added, “It is discrimination. I feel like they saw her for a disability right away, right when they heard the word ‘autism,’ and it’s just not fair. I don’t want her to grow up like that and I don’t think it’s right for people to think that.”

Crowe added on her Facebook page:

I have never been in this facility but i called to try to enroll my daughter in a class but was denied because she has autism! It’s very sad to me because my daughter is so smart and amazing! I don’t want anyone to see her as a disability and that is the first thing the owner did! It’s very rude and hurtful.

 

I have never been in this facility but i called to try to enrol my daughter in a class but was denied because she has…

Posted by Tia Harletta Crowe on Monday, March 21, 2016

 

Owner Pamela Raisher told Fox 4 News that after the message was posted on Facebook, Creative Arts Academy has received all kinds of negative feedback. She explained that the safety of the kids is her number one priority, and that her team is not currently trained to handle children with special needs.

“I would love to have an instructor that is as talented in dance, or gymnastics and special needs,” Raisher told Fox 4 News. “If there’s someone out there, please I would hire you in a heartbeat. We would love to have more programs, but we have to work within what our reality is.”

Bella’s therapist spoke with an employee at the studio and asked to attend a class, but during that conversation, the therapist was told it would not allowed, reported Fox 4 News. After Crowe’s social media post sparked outrage, Raisher told the Crowe family they could attend a trial class, but Crowe declined the offer and told KCTV that she found another local studio instead.

KCTV5

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To the Overwhelmed Parent Whose Child Was Just Diagnosed With Autism

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Today is the day that everything changes, and yet everything remains the same. You have a diagnosis. You have an answer. You have a label. Yet you have the same child in front of you. You have the same challenges. However, you’re venturing into new territory. It can be exciting and overwhelming at the same time. Take a deep breath. I’ve been there. Here’s my advice.

Today you will start a journey. Embrace the journey. Your path is your own to create. There is no roadmap to follow. Your journey will fit the needs of your child and your family. There isn’t a right or a wrong way. Some days you may choose the shortcut because you are simply too exhausted to do anything else. Another day you may take the scenic route and find yourself overwhelmed by the beauty. You may stop and rest along the way. You may get lost and you may have to backtrack. At times it may feel like a long and lonely road, and other times you may find yourself pleasantly surprised by the people who you meet along the way.

There will be times when you will be overwhelmed by emotions. It’s OK to cry. It’s not a sign of weakness. Bringing a child into this world is an enormous undertaking. They carry around a piece of your heart with them. When they struggle, you struggle right along with them, and it breaks your heart. You will feel sad for them as they encounter people in this world who don’t understand them. There will be people who aren’t kind and empathetic. Let the tears flow when they need to.

You can love your child unconditionally, but their behaviors can be extreme and you may be exhausted and frustrated. There may be moments when you will lock yourself in the bathroom because it’s the only quiet place in the house and you just need a moment to compose yourself.

It doesn’t make you a bad parent. It makes you human.

You can’t make it through life alone. You will need a support group. Find friends and lean on family. These people will be like gold. They’ll be there for you on days when you feel like the world in caving in. They’ll listen to you even when they don’t understand. They’ll laugh with you and they’ll cry with you.

There will be moments when you question yourself as a parent. There will be moments when you look back in hindsight and can think of a hundred better ways to handle the situation. You’ll look at other parents and compare yourself to them. They seem to have things under control. They seem to be doing a better job than you are. We strive for perfection, but we are never perfect. It’s OK to mess up and be an imperfect parent. It’s OK to react to a situation. It’s OK to feel like sometimes life isn’t fair. Sometimes it isn’t.

Raising a child with autism will change you. As the years pass, you’ll look back on this day and be astonished by how far you have come. We mold to the life we are given. You’ll have days when you pull strength from places you didn’t even know existed and days when you feel like you are burdened with the weight of the world and can barely go on. Today is only one day. Tomorrow is the future. One day at a time.

The Mighty is asking the following: What’s one thing people might not know about your experience with disability, disease or mental illness, and what would you say to teach them? If you’d like to participate, please send a blog post to [email protected] Please include a photo for the piece, a photo of yourself and 1-2 sentence bio. Check out our Submit a Story page for more about our submission guidelines.

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