You'll know, if you read this blog regularly, that my youngest son, 18 year old Carb Addict is severely autistic. He can't really speak and has learning difficulties. He totally fits the classic 'triad of impairments'.
We've seen lots of programmes about autism and invariably they concentrate on higher functioning autists, or higher functioning Aspergers - Rainman and Stephen Wiltshire documentaries have a lot to answer for. I've lost count of the number of people who ask me, of Carb Addict, 'has he got a special talent?' Well not really, unless you count identifying label-less cassette tapes by looking at the amount of tape run through on each spindle as a talent. Or rewinding a Disney video to the exact same spot, to watch the exact same 4 seconds, over and over again. That's over and over again for 15 minutes at a stretch. In fact I'm the one with the talent - the most tolerant parent in my street. So let me say this - 0.00000000001% OF AUTISTIC PEOPLE HAVE A SPECIAL TALENT!!!!!!
If you didn't see this programme last night please iPlayer it. Theroux visited a school in New Jersey for 250 autistic students from 3 to 21 years old - it brought home to Big Man and I (and thousands of other parents, judging by Theroux's Facebook page today) just how far we have to go, provision-wise, in the UK. Carb Addict is lucky to go to a placement with the Hampshire Autistic Society, which is the best we can get here (we're lucky) but it looked pitiful compared to DLC Warren. One of the fantastic things they have there is a corridor that is made up as a whole street of full-size shops, just for the students to learn about money, social interaction and for them to 'work'. Brilliant.
For once higher functioning students weren't concentrated on - only one chap could pass for 'normal', albeit an oddball kind of normal, and that was Nicky. Also focussed on was Brian who, at 20 is non-verbal and lives in a shared home with others like him. He tried to burn down his house aged 8 and has attacked his mother so badly that she could no longer cope with him. Brian is very like Carb Addict, temperament- and ability-wise. I can't work out how to get the clip from the BBC website but please check this out - http://www.bbc.co.uk/programmes/p00r3885 - it's very illuminating.
It's a reflection of how true to life this film was, and how well parents of autistic children received this that Theroux's Facebook page is inundated with messages of praise. There are a few asking why it wasn't filmed in the UK (erm....because we know how depressing and tenth rate the provision here is, maybe?) and one person who said how very disappointed she was that it only paid attention to severely autistic kids. She was very irate, actually. However, I can't remember a single programme about autism prior to 'Extreme Love' that didn't focus on high functioning Aspergers, or autistic savants - the very ones who are in the minority. I guess you can't please everyone.
Will you watch it and tell me what you think?