Born To Be Different – Turning Eight Review: Little Children, Big Love

April 28, 2009 by  
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BORN TO BE DIFFERENT – TURNING EIGHT, Tuesday 28th April, Channel 4, 9pm Alert Me

Hot on the heels of Kimberley: Young Mum Ten Years On, Channel 4 appears hell bent on shaking us complacent Brits out of our self-indulgent whinging over the price of petrol and crisps with a series of revealing and moving documentaries.

Since their births eight years ago, Channel 4 has been following the lives of six children, each born with disabilities that range from severe mental and physical ills such as those suffered by Shelbie Williams, to less debilitating, but equally problematic disabilities, such as Hamish McLean’s dwarfism.

In this first episode the programme makers catch up with what has been going on since their last visit two years ago. Although the episode only comes in at 50 minutes, the amount of work that goes into caring for a child with special needs really comes across and by the end I was left exhausted.

In particular Nathan – who has Downs Syndrome – and autistic William require constant attention and both prove to be a real handful for their families. Nevertheless, the programme highlights the unlimited love and patience shown by the parents who revel in the triumphs of overcoming the challenges of everyday life.

At times Born To Be Different makes for difficult viewing, especially when you realise that the odds of survival for some of these children are considerably smaller than average. It does, however, draw you in, and make you feel thankful for every moment that they keep on surviving, which I guess is the point. The remarkable amount of joy and pleasure these kids have for life and also give to their parents seems disproportionate to their situation. Despite not having the full use of her arms, all 7-year-old Zoe cares about is keeping up to date with fashion and learning how to apply make-up.

It will be interesting to see how the show progresses but I have my suspicions it won’t all be plain sailing. One thing is for sure though, it will make most of your own little cares seem pretty insignificant and you may just develop a new found appreciation for the people you rely on in everyday life.

At the risk of sounding like a greeting card, there’s a whole lot of love in the room.

Jack McKay