Chris Packham – a watermark moment. #autism #actuallyautistic
October 23, 2017 § 11 Comments
It’s been a little while since I blogged in this space. Life has been busy for this autistic.
I’ve learned a great deal lately in my professional life, mainly about the absolute importance of working from core knowledge. Congruence is the buzz word right now – and from it so very many good things can and do flow.
This is all very timely and segues nicely into other areas of my life. Viewing the recent Chris Packham documentary Asperger’s and Me has set the seal on a growing trend. I know it wasn’t a perfect programme on autism per se (I even wonder what such a thing would look like as there are so many ways of being autistic) but it was perfect for Chris.
Many will point out that this was a white male perspective (as ever) and that there was an unhelpful division between Asperger’s and autism (a false division some would argue – myself included). Horrifying sequences were filmed in the US where autism was likened to cancer with resultant ABA ‘behavioural chemotherapy’ administered. I’m still reeling. We witnessed the controversial TMS intervention being applied to a young man – a subject I myself have written passionately against in a previous blog post.
Yet Chris being perfectly himself is what we’d all like – and in this sense it felt nothing short of a miracle. We saw (perhaps for the first time?) an autistic man owning the screen quite openly – after decades of masking his autism for viewers he dropped it revealing a far more interesting persona (even than the one so many of us have admired for so long).
Yes, Chris is an even more compelling personality as an autistic – so swallow that world. Absorb the truth that our unmasking can be your enriching. And not as a beguiling enchantment (as autism sometimes is portrayed) but as a reality – Chris didn’t smooth over the areas of intense struggle which led him to consider suicide seriously on three occasions.
Okay, this programme suffers on some levels – unhelpful ideas and information slip through the net at times, but Chris holds the narrative. His status and skill as a presenter has conferred this power (one so rarely held or shown by an autistic), and his openness can be a gift to us all.
There have been three tangible occasions already in which the programme has helped me (I mean specifics – the overall effect can’t really be quantified). Three conversations which have been eased by Chris.
I’ve been greeted by a new level of understanding and given considerations not previously offered. I have been able to say how hard it is for me to socialise with people who don’t know I’m autistic – how much I sometimes dread it, how much masking can be involved, and how I won’t sleep afterwards because my sensory system can’t quickly shift from hyper alert masking mode to relaxation. The later a party the longer it takes me to unwind, and the more impact this has on subsequent functioning for days to come.
Finally my family understand, I can talk openly with some of my neighbours, and I can tell a dear old ‘neglected’ friend why I never stayed in touch. This is down to Chris – if they’ve watched the programme a new foundation has been laid.
I’m not saying this will work everywhere or every time. I’ll still have to mask and I’ll still be met with blank faces. But I can now manage certain relationships with more realistic expectations on the other side. This feels like another watermark moment. So thank you Chris, and amen to more of that.