2017 - The Year Of Autism Inspired TV

Like many parents of autistic children, I throw myself into learning about the condition. This last year I’ve delighted in a plethora of autism inspired TV. I gorged on episode after episode of Atypical on Netflix, was intrigued by Chris Packham’s programme Asperger’s and Me and consumed the second series of The A Word. Even better, autistic characters entered the kids TV world too.

My pre-verbal son, David, seemed to connect with the first ever CBeebies autistic animated character Pablo. And hot on the heels of Sesame Street’s reveal of their first autistic Muppet, Julia, came the re-boot of the Power Rangers Movie. And you’ve guessed it, one of the Power Rangers is autistic. David’s older, also autistic, brother Anthony, is a nine year old Power Rangers obsessed boy. I literally squealed with excitement when I heard the news.

The Mighty Morphin Power Rangers were back! A group of ordinary school kids found themselves instilled with alien powers that they had to master as a team to save the world. And counted amongst those ‘ordinary kids’ was one with autism. The best part was what happened when I told Anthony about it.

“Anthony, you know the Power Rangers Movie that’s coming out soon?”

“Ohhhh yes.”

“Well, this is really exciting.... the Blue Ranger has autism, like you. He will be a bit like you.”

“Oh mum, that will just make him even more like me.”

How could I be so blind?

And then I listened to my amazing son as he told me ways that he was already like the Power Rangers.

He is brave Anthony struggles with lots of things and I often think that he has to be ‘braver’ than other kids his own age. Yes all kids have things they need to overcome, but Anthony is faced with challenges on a constant basis. And some things like entering a swimming gala has a whole set of issues other kids just won’t get. He is brave to get over his fears and worries and works through each and every single day.

He is strong He absolutely is! Take a boy with autism and ADHD who literally spends all day jumping about and you get someone fit. He’s no longer losing weight with his medication now, so he is super lean and strong - not unlike the Power Rangers.

He wants to help and protect people OK, he was beginning to pull at my heart strings now! But it’s true. Anthony tries to protect everyone. He’s petrified of his little sister walking out onto the road. He is desperate to keep everyone safe. The best way he tries to do this is my helping people follow the rules. But his general empathy far exceeds what you may think you’d find in a nine year old boy with autism. He even wanted to protect the kids who bullied him at school so they wouldn’t get into trouble.

He moves fast Anthony loves speed. Roller coasters, driving on motor ways, he’s even into motor sports himself. It’s as if he should have been born on a planet with a faster spin. When he’s rushing around the house, he is almost a blur.

He’s good at fighting OK, that sounds a bit of a disaster but it’s not really. Both Anthony and his brother David are on the autistic spectrum and they are both sensory seekers. It’s a bit like having an itch that you need to scratch I guess. But it’s not an itch, it’s a need for pressure or loud noises or something else that stimulates their senses. This means they seek out touch and contact; hugs, rolling and rough and tumble play are in abundance in our house.

And my absolute favourite and I’m paraphrasing for comprehension:

“I’m not the same as everyone else and it can be difficult sometimes, but I’m still best when I’m myself”

Because the Power Rangers are special and they are different from the other kids in school. This means they have to take on evil aliens and protect the world. But being who they are makes them stronger in their battles and only leads to victory. And at the end of the day, even though they are different, they are also just kids who go to school.

Yes Anthony, you are awesome!

So thanks to all the film makers, programmers, broadcasters and media for promoting awareness and acceptance of those like my kids. Each person who gets a glimpse into an autistic perspective is one more person who may not judge our family when they see us acting differently. I look forward to seeing what 2018 will offer my autism obsessed mind.

Needless to say, my eldest boy was super excited about the Power Rangers Movie. His only suggestion for future reference - if he’d chosen a Ranger to be autistic it would be the red one, but only because red is his favourite colour.