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The Autistic Gardener

16 June 2017

The Autistic Gardener returns to Channel 4 this week. Hear from Zaffy, who works in Mencap's Quality Team, on why programmes like this give people an important insight into the condition

Zaffy Simone

As an autism advocate, I love the concept of the The Autistic Gardener.

It is a TV programme that shows people with autism being accepted for who they are, as well as being functioning human beings. The programme follows a group of people with autism who have an interest in gardening, led by Alan Gardner who has Asperger Syndrome, working on various gardening projects. Each person taking part in the show has a specific interest about different elements of gardening. In each episode a person will use their skills to complete a project on a garden, whilst learning new things to expand their interest.

I like that the programme is about autistic people, by autistic people, because this is the best way to learn about us. This way viewers learn about us from the inside out, rather than the outside in.

I feel that the programme offers a great insight because it allows people with autism to speak their thoughts and views directly to camera. Also, parents of children with autism featured in this programme all speak of their children in positive ways, and highlight their abilities, instead of focusing on any inabilities or deficits.

The Autistic Gardener nicely shows our similarities, but also the differences that exist in people with autism. As the saying goes "If you’ve met one person with autism, then you’ve met one person with autism"!

I want people who watch The Autistic Gardener to focus on people with autism being accepted as part of a community.

People with autism deserve to be accepted the way we are, as we have vital skills and abilities to offer.  

In future, I would like to see more publicity around women with autism, as not to perpetuate the false belief that there are more men on the autistic spectrum than women. I would also like to see more up to date explanation of terminology around autism and related conditions (for example Asperger Syndrome is not "high functioning autism"), in order to improve public understanding.

The first episode of series 2 of The Autistic Gardener will be shown on Channel 4 on Saturday 17 June at 7pm.