UK – A new Channel 4 series began last Wednesday, July 8, which I was very excited about. To be honest I don’t watch that much television, but this series about a team of autistic gardeners, or ‘autists’ as referred to in the programme, really caught my attention.
I love it!
The series follows a group of amateur gardeners, Charles, Thomas, Philip, James and Victoria; who are all on the autistic spectrum, led by the Chelsea award winning gardener, Alan Gardner, who is autistic. The first show in the series began with him saying: “I am a gardener. I literally am: A Gardner, it’s my name.”
With Alan’s bright pink hair and brightly coloured fingernails, his enthusiasm and love of gardening is infectious.
Over the hour we saw this group of autists transform the neglected Derbyshire garden, into something truly magical. This show though is so much more than gardening. I see the programme as more of an exploration into the world of autism. It explains to the viewer what autism is in a positive and upbeat manner. As Alan himself explains at the very start of the show, autism is a spectrum condition and every autistic is different, just as every neurotypical is different.
I want to praise this programme. In this era of gutter sensationalism and preying on the vulnerable within our society, for our own so called entertainment (just think Benefits Street) this programme, although a reality TV show, does a complete U-turn. It of course entertains, but it does so much more. It educates us about autism, without patronising or belittling those individuals who are involved. Rather, we watch and are offered a unique insight and glimpse into their thought processes and creativity.
There may be those who say that once again this type of show highlights those who ‘can do’ and who are ‘high functioning’ and while this is true, I still think that the individuals shown also have their difficulties and struggles that the viewer can empathise with. For example Thomas has difficulties with his social communication, and for people with very little knowledge about autism, this explains how autism can impact upon an individual’s daily life.
Well done Channel 4. I really do think that they have dealt with this sensitive subject matter extremely well. Awareness is always good, and for once the viewer is given a positive message. I am really looking forward to the rest of the series.
The Autistic Gardener is on Channel 4, Wednesday at 8pm. It is also available on 4OD