Sunday, November 05, 2017


Long-time readers of my blog will know that my novel BUT I TOLD YOU LAST YEAR THAT I LOVED YOU was written from my personal experience of being married to someone with Asperger syndrome, my husband of 47 years, Dave. There are others in my family who are autistic, but Dave was my muse.

Sometimes friends ring me up and say Turn on the radio! or Switch on the TV! There's  a programme on about Asperger syndrome/autism and I thank them and carry on with what I was doing. My instinctive unspoken response to such  suggestions, which I know are meant to be helpful, is "I live with autism I don't want to listen to yet more of it on the radio."

However...I recently heard a programme on BBC Radio 4 about autism and communication which I thought would be very helpful for people who don't know much about the subject. It was an episode of Micheal Rosen's Word of Mouth and you can find it here

Someone in the family who has Asperger syndrome (not Dave) told me I should watch a BBC TV programme called Aspergers and Me because it was very good. Chris Packham, the well-known wildlife broadcaster, who is in his early 50s, was talking about growing up with Aspergers and being diagnosed with it in his forties. I watched this. It was good.  You can watch it here if you live in the UK and have a TV licence. It's available for another 17 days.

But now I want to make a recommendation of my own. I've just finished watching ATYPICAL, a comedy drama series on Netflix about a teenage boy called Sam who has Asperger syndrome. 

There is some controversy in the autistic community as to whether the programme is both true to life or helpful, but I love this series on three levels - as a writer, because it is so well written, as a viewer because it is so entertaining, and as someone who has several aspies in her family and can recognise a lot of what is going on, both in terms of Sam's behaviour, and the reactions and behaviour of his family.  I especially like it because it has helped me imagine what it is like to be an autistic person experiencing a meltdown. The writer alters the sound and lighting in these scenes to great effect. 

I just read an aspie's critique of the series in which he criticises the laughter at the behaviour of Sam. OK, I get this, but from the point of view of a neurotypical who has lived with and loved an aspie for nearly 50 years, it is the humour - added to the kindness, honesty, reliability and intellectual stimulation - which has been the saving grace in my marriage.

p.s. a long-time reader of this blog, Marmee, mentions in the comments below a blog about knitting, on which there is some information about autism. I found a page on this blog which explains simply, briefly and clearly, what autism is. It's here.


Anonymous said...

Thank you for this Sue - very timeley as our 8 year old Grandson was formally diognosed with Aspergers in the summer and the family and school are trying to work out what this means for everyday living and the future. Meanwhile waiting for universal credit to hit our eldest daughter (33) who is happily in four half day "work experience" on ESA but who will find the whole process of being reassessed as fit for work challenging - I am dreading it. Then there are other family members.... It definately is not a one size fits all diagnosis or response. There is so much conficting advice and comment - its a real minefield. Humour helps tremendously as does the willingness for people to share their experiences which at the bottom line gives a sense of community - not being alone even if nothing else changes.
Was in Sheffield over the weekend visiting my sister - we went out for a drive up to I think its Stanton edge ? (Cubar gap carpark was rammed!) and then through Hassop and home via Hathersage - lovely afternoon. Of course I thought of you! Jenetta

Sue Hepworth said...

Hi Jenetta, I hope the staff in your grandson's school are well informed, professional and sensitive. And I wish you luck with the Universal Credit form and assessment. Are you in the National Autistic Society? I heartily recommend it. They are a terrific help in all kinds of ways..e.g. Advice on educational issues and advice on how best to apply for benefits.
I'm glad you enjoyed Derbyshire. Stanton Edge is where we used to go when we lived in Sheffield. Now we live further away and go other places.

marmee said...

Hello there! I was moved by your comments on the qualities in your husband you so appreciate. I so agree. After (I think) 46 odd years of marriage it is kindness and reliability and humour that I too value so much.

By the bye, the blog called Little Cotton Rabbits is written by someone who has a son on the autistic spectrum and also writes about issues around that as well as the life and knitting stuff. I add that for other followers of your blog that might appreciate reading about what a mom of an autistic teenager is experiencing.

Sue Hepworth said...

Hi Marmee - aren't we lucky?
Thank you for the recommendation of Little Cotton Rabbits. I will check it out.

Sue Hepworth said...

Hi Marmee,
thanks for the recommendation. That blogger's explanation of autism is very elegant.