What television has taught us

When it comes to Asperger’s Syndrome or any other form of autism which falls into the spectrum, all forms of media are beginning to generate a steadily growing amount of exposure that is slowly cracking the confusing aspects of the disability.

More specifically, television is leading the way and surely, this can only be a good thing?

Being autistic can often be difficult as its traits and effects on daily life are not exactly obvious.

There are no bruises, no lesions or no deformaties which show a difference in ability.

There is no way of knowing that there is a difference in the way that somebody with autism behaves.

JJ depicting Asperger’s Syndrome on Skins.

With this, help is needed to clear up any misunderstandings and by doing this through popular television programmes, praise must be heaped on the writers of Waterloo Road and Skins as two popular British primetime shows.

From my own experiences as a teenager with autistic traits, secondary school was not a fun place to visit.

Not only did I have to contend with extraordinary levels of hormones but with poor communication skills also being clear to other students, this mix was not a good thing to deal with.

I felt alone and therefore, it’s tough to see the environment being recreated on-screen.

Thankfully, Waterloo Road constructed a fantastic storyline around 16-year-old Karla Bentham (played by Jessica Baglow) which had a large amount of differences from my own memories.

Though there were parts of her behaviour and background story that are completely different from my own, such as obsessive compulsive disorder and a removal from schools in the past as she was labelled as a ‘trouble maker’, there were also similarities which only deliver a sense of realism to Karla’s situation.

Being a child involved in the splitting-up of a marriage is something that I can relate to, and possibly the reasons for the divorce as her issues became too difficult to handle for one parent or both but her acceptance in school is fantastic.

Making friends is a tough thing to do but Karla is managing it and finally achieving.

As JJ, a wannabe magician, Ollie Barbieri has again played a 16-year-old and with the writing skills of Bryan Elsley, also the co-creator of Skins, a fantastic job has been done.

Never completely outlining the fact that a disability was prevalent in the character, autistic traits were shown in JJ’s behaviour and this was compounded by a visit to a consultant who confirmed his diagnosis.

A strong passion for one subject.

A need to make sure that everything in life is done in a methodical manner.

A difficulty in trying to fit into a normal environment.

Elsley has done very well in bringing JJ to the viewers of Skins, an exploration into teenage angst which has received global appeal, not just success in Great Britain through E4, a British digital television channel, and Barbieri has backed this up by creating a persona which makes the public feel love for the troubled teen.

It may be difficult for an actor to adjust to a role if they are not disabled but in the cases of Baglow and Barbieri, autism has been depicted in a fantastic manner.

Whether a cure can be magically developed in the future is another matter but for now, removing the mysterious edge of a hidden disability is something which can only be a good thing.

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