Young, Autistic and Stagestruck is a Channel4 programme following a diverse group of youngsters with one similarity, all the children and young people taking part are on the autistic spectrum like J. As J has so recently been diagnosed I was keen to see the programme and see what similarities the participants had with J.
The parallels hit me in the face immedietly the show started as we saw Mollie a little girl with a BIG personality also on the autistic spectrum. Programme One opened with Mollie and right away I saw the likeness with J, I watched knowingly as she raged "I hate you" at her Mum, I recognized the self harming (hitting herself on the head) when raging and in Programme Two watched her head bang in temper as J still does at times and heard the same "er er" noise which J makes. J's Dad was watching some 170 miles away and we rang each other during virtually every commercial break "oh my goodness" and "did you see"? The similarities between Mollie and J were amazing and for the first time I could see how and why J fitted on the autistic spectrum.
Since seeing the first programme I have joined the Facebook group dedicated to the programme and after posting on the wall about the parallels between J and Mollie was touched to receive a message from Mollie's Mum. Mollie and J are indeed very similar - like peas in a pod in some ways but also poles apart and I don't envy S (Mollie's Mum) one little bit. However, Mollie's actions are more marked and her behaviour is far more challenging than J's. Mollie's rages can be daily and last hours or even days, J's are shortlived and he can (at the moment) be distracted (thank goodness for ADHD - even his rages are unfocused). I was even more in awe of S when she told me her older son has cerebal palsy but understood when she said she could cope with 20 of him but only 1 of Mollie! Truely the autistic child can be a challenge.
I am so grateful to S and P (Mollie's parents) and to Mollie for agreeing to take part in this programme which is opening up to a wider audience an understanding of what parenting the autistic child can be like. The rages, the intelligence, the talents (hearing Claire sing was lovely), the kindness and gentleness of Andrew, the fierce intelligence, anger and sadness of Ben who made me laugh out loud in the first episode by saying tartly (in response to the interviewer's question "Are you autistic"?) "Of course I'm autistic, what a stupid question, we could have done this interview over the phone". Ben's intelligence masks anger and an inability to cope with social communication which makes him say "I want to die". He knows he is different and does not like it. Other children had different problems, one used to smear faeces which must be a hideous problem to deal with, others had been diagnosed at a late stage with a parent saying "I always knew he was different but nobody would listen". Varying children and young adults of varying ages - all demonstrating the similar traits of the autistic spectrum. I can't wait for the next installment....