I got home from work tonight just in time to catch Young, Autistic and Stagestruck on Channel 4+1. I’ve not been up to speed on tv lately and would have missed this but I’m hoping someone would have told me about it…altho there was surprisingly little chat in my twitter stream about it! So keep an eye out, it’s a series so I’ll be setting the V+ box.

The programme information on the Channel 4 website states the following:

Rather than make a four-part series that simply observed the lives of young people with autism and highlighted what they can’t do, we wanted to work actively with them to show what they can do. In particular, we wanted to see how involvement in an artistic process – in this case, putting on a show – might benefit them.

I’m very familiar with autism and have a curious fascination with how people with autism perceive the world. My first in-depth experience of someone with autism came when I was volunteering at uni, with a lad called Ben. Myself and my mate Jane visited Ben every week on a Wednesday afternoon, and every week without fail we would watch the Lion King…honestly if I never see Simba again it will be too soon. Ben was very ‘typically’ autistic – if you can be such a thing. He liked routines, wasn’t fond of strangers, showed very little empathy and struggled to keep control of his temper…I really can’t imagine him liking anything about the idea of taking part in this show, which is partly why it grabbed my attention.

I’ve not finished watching it yet but I wanted to blog already about Claire! She’s the one in the grey cardie in the middle of the picture above. Claire is very musical and during the first episode there is a scene where the group are taking part in a singing session – piece of cake you’d think, Claire really doesn’t have anything to worry about, she has a great voice and can sing. Except she makes a mistake, a very small mistake and sings the wrong part at the wrong time. The guy leading the group stops her and points it out, I thought very nicely but Claire is inconsolable.

There follows a heart breaking moment for me where the film crew ask what is wrong (as the tears and mascara are streaming down her face) – Claire responds as follows:

“I don’t like making mistakes because back in the past when I did people kind of, made a mockery of me, I’m too frightened to make mistakes. People can’t just respect you for who you are, they can’t, they absolutely can’t. Sometimes its a mistake, I make mistakes being myself as well”

Claire goes on to say that she feels it’s a safe place for her to cry because ‘outside’ it’s not. Wow, what struck me was the instant sense of community these guys had created (it was only day two) and they were all strangers beforehand – no mean feat with any group of ten young people, never mind ten young people who all have autism.

On a different level, I felt that Claire really spoke for all of us – no-one likes making mistakes, lots of people can’t just respect you for who you are, and I for one am always making mistakes being myself! I really would urge each and every one of you to take an hour and go watch this show, to see the struggles these young people face, but also to realise just how similar their struggles are….I’ll not even start about Andrew and his wants for a girlfriend, that’s for another time.

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