Autism and Me review: 'I mostly try to show that I am not stupid'

As the camera glides serenely above a lake, pauses by a whorled tree stump, or rests for a moment of quiet contemplation beneath a sky silvery with clouds, I make a note about the filmmakers’ technique. A moment later,Hughie Malone, an 11-year-old boy with Asperger’s Syndrome, interjects with his own critique: “I know how obsessed you are with the scenic shots,” he says, in his restless precocious manner, beckoning the camera along a leafy path, “this way looks better.”

If you find it surprisingly easy to relate to Hughie, a boy who can not easily relate to people, it’s partly because in Autism and Me (RTÉ One, Monday, 9.35pm) director Liam McGrath lets his contributors lead the way. This is a refreshing approach for a programme that deals not so much with autism, but people with autism. Elegantly constructed and entirely moving, the programme pays more attention to individuals than to a condition.

No one is quite as fluently realised by that approach as Fiacre Ryan, a 16-year-old from Mayo, who is non-verbal but extremely articulate – he communicates via a Rapid Prompt Method, spelling out words by gesture, and the programme assists with a voice over. “I mostly try to show that I am not stupid,” he says. If self-deprecation is a spectrum, Fiacre at its extreme end: he narrates his experience with the soul of a poet, and the programme gives his internal monologue a revelatory public expression.

Read Full Item
14th March 2017
Irish Times