Individual aspirations

7th April 2000 at 01:00
THE AGES OF AUTISM. Video Narrated by Nick Hornby. The National Autistic Society pound;15.99 + pound;2.50 p+p mTel: 020 7833 2299

This latest video produced by the National Autistic Society shows individuals of different ages with autism - hence the title.

The rather skewed picture of relatively able individuals in pleasant surroundings doing ordinary things means, however, that "The Palatable Side of Autism" might have been a more appropriate title.

Only Joe, aged seven, demonstrates some of the more challenging aspects of autism. Robin (49), was only recently diagnosed with autism and has been in full employment. Richard (18) and Juliette (24) have Asperger's syndrome; they live in their own homes and talk about their lives and aspirations. This is informative in terms of how a positive or "normal" life can be achieved but it does not tell the whole story.

I can imagine the family of a child with autism, who will only drink from oe beaker and only eat food of a particular shape and texture, feeling more rather than less isolated on viewing this video. We are told that these individuals are representative examples of what it currently means to live with autism, but there is little reflection of the majority of people with autism who have significant learning difficulties.

It illustrates how people with autistic spectrum disorders can be well-normalised, making it strong as a promotional video for the National Autistic Society, but less useful as an educational resource.

The most informative part is Judith Gould's description of the spectrum using real examples and talking about them with obvious warmth and familiarity.

Other interviewees are less at ease in front of the camera and some of the delivery is laboured or stilted.

The video is pedestrian at times - indicating a lack of clarity about the intended audience - a confusion I share.

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