Did you see the Chris Packham programme 'Asperger's and Me' on BBC2 at 9pm Tuesday night? I'm planning to catch up on iPlayer. I'll be honest, once we've got our three children, two of whom have autism, into bed and started having dinner it's usually easily past 9pm. I've read some inspiring reports about it this morning. Truth is, at the moment I feel spoilt for choice when it comes to watching autism inspired TV.
Like many parents of autistic children, I throw myself into learning about the condition. Everything is 'autism this' and 'autism that' according to my other half. Having missed the start of BBC2 documentary Tuesday night, I headed to Netflix and watched the next episode of Atypical. In a few weeks I'll also start devouring the next series of 'The A Word'.
But I'm not the only one working my way through autism inspired programmes at the moment. I've noticed that my pre-verbal autistic son, David, has started watching Pablo on his iPad. And he is engrossed by it.
Pablo, a new show on CBeebies, is the first animated TV series to star an autistic character and the first TV programme with an all-autistic core cast. It's reminiscent of Woolly & Tig where a little girl uses her cuddly 'Woolly' spider to help her through her fears and worries. This new character Pablo, is a five year old boy on the autistic spectrum who enters an animated world, drawing imaginary animal friends which come to life to help him when he needs to handle situations which make him feel anxious.
The first episode is called the 'Purple Bird' and covers a situation I'm familiar with. Did you ever hear about a baby crying when their grandparent arrived with a new beard and someone says 'It's because you look different'? Most babies learn as they develop that Granddad is still Granddad with or without a beard. But for an autistic person, the slightest change can be terrifying way beyond their childhood.
While watching the slightly autism anal mum on Atypical, I had my hair down. I can't have my hair in anything other than a ponytail during the day because David gets upset. I'm not me, I'm not right with my hair down. Just like his sister, Jane, is not right with only one shoe on and the car is not right when it's parked in the wrong place - both of these incidents have caused meltdowns in David.
As it turns out Pablo is confused by his mother dressing differently. In the first episode Pablo is headed to a wedding. His mum enters the room and talks to Pablo but he is so confused by her purple clothes and fancy feather hat and concludes that she is a big purple bird. So Pablo enters his animated world to seek help from his animal friends to seek comfort and ultimately answers.
His friends are delightful highlights of his character - the flappy bird and an echolalic llama and a nervous dinosaur are easily spotted. I recognised the familiar moaning of his unfamiliar, scratchy clothes. Pablo and his animated friends help him discover the truth - the big purple bird is really his mum and he has no reason to be afraid.
David found Pablo on the iPlayer on his iPad all by himself. Usually he watches the same programmes over and over. This brings him comfort and repetition is very important in his learning. He has just started forming some sounds through listening and repeating what he hears on the iPad. David has watched his first episode of Pablo and many others. He skips to different parts in different episodes. He loves the theme tune and its music.
Does he connect to it more than other programmes? Does he understand something better? Do the subtle autistic characters and voices feel more familiar to him?
As David is a pre-verbal six year old, it's very difficult for me to tell what it means to him.
Ultimately I suppose, just like so many of the brilliant shows on CBeebies, Pablo is about education. And while helping David learn, Pablo, is hopefully educating many more and creating an early understanding about what life may be like for some children. Children who may be in your kid's class, or in the playground, or just like in Pablo's first appearance, at a wedding.
And while I'm gorging on Atypical, The A Word and absorbing all Chris Packham has to say later on today, I suppose the reality is, that I'm hoping people who don't have autistic kids may be doing some of it too. So they don't feel the need to judge us in a restaurant, or fear us in the playground. If Pablo can do the same thing for young children when they are at their most receptive and, in many ways, most accepting then Pablo may not be the only one who can connect with my autistic sons.
This story originally appeared on Rainbows are too beautiful, a blog sharing stories, information and some opinion from a mum of three neurotypical and autistic kids. Follow the blog on facebook or twitter.Suggest a correction