Autistic Driving School Review: I’d Rather Walk

April 29, 2010 by  
Filed under - Home, Reviews

AUTISTIC DRIVING SCHOOL: Thursday 29th April, BBC3, 9pm ALERT ME

We all watched Driving School and programmes about autistic people are usually interesting and thought-provoking. So…why the hell haven’t we conjoined the two yet? Well, this is why. Autistic Driving School simply takes two decent ideas for reality television, and forms a meaningless, dull 30 minutes of film.

We follow five autistic people as they prepare for driving tests. What we don’t get is any type of interest relating to the illness of autism or indeed, learning to drive – what we do get is a lot of insubstantial footage.

A scene is set whereby we’re supposed to see the dangers of letting autistic people drive. “They all want to control a car, but they must gain control of themselves first?. The fact that they’re all utterly reserved and controlled is completely overlooked. If we consider other programmes on the condition – like Young, Autistic and Stagestruck – one begins to see the difference between a worthwhile experiment sensitively showcasing what it means to be autistic and a mindless show that seems to have been invented whilst drunk.

Chris is a wannabe F1 driver who is fearless and pragmatic. You’re coerced into thinking he’s some deranged speed demon who’s going to accelerate through red lights at every opportunity. He passes his test with only one minor fault. Sam, another driving hopeful, can’t do his shoelaces, but we are told – he is hoping to drive. Once again, he passes with flying colours. No drama or unexpectedness here.

Indeed, all of the autistic sufferers pass their tests with ease, and we are left no closer to learning anything about the condition, or even being entertained in the slightest. The more severe the autism, obviously, the more interest the show can generate. The twin girls featured here are perhaps the most eccentric, as they talk about mythical animals and are unsure of the car’s pedals. Once again, however, there is no delving or revelations. Just gawping and lots of shots of driving.

The only vaguely interesting bit of the programme is Julia, who is an autistic driving instructor. Highly qualified, hearing her story is appealing and informative. She describes autism in a manner in which I’ve never heard, whereby she illustrates the problem by suggesting everyday life for a sufferer is all played out in Shakespearean English, which must be constantly translated.

Julia was bullied at school and is obviously very proud of her achievements as an instructor (she has badges tattooed on her arms). Her passion for her job however, and what she reveals about the minds of autistic people is unfortunately not enough to salvage a programme that achieves little and entertains even less.

It’s just a bit ridiculous – a documentary about autistic people driving. We get neither an investigative look at autism, nor a good account of the rigours of learning to drive. This is an ill-conceived programme with nothing to say.

I am a driving instructor with special needs qualifications to specialise in Autistic and Aspergers syndrom customers and would look forward to hearing from anyone wanting help to becoming a safe confident independant driver whilst suffering with either of the above or any other mental health problems I have acheived my qualifications thru training with Julia Malkin MBE

Jamie says:

Sarah, you are WRONG! You cant CONTROLL autisim as it is always a part of you, you cannont switch it off. Thank you sunny And well done on your degree!! I bet you family were very proud as were mine!!

and I wonder if sarah is on about me? Im sorry but that is how i have been treated by others like someone who is a freak!! dont like it? dont comment!! as someone with autisim I think it only right to express what I feel other people think of us, or me in particular. dont like it? well you know what to do. If you think its rude to speak the unspeakable,the truth of how people generalise, laugh and dicriminate against disability or even look at someone with a disability an know they think dissaproving thoughts of them, like they’re not even human!! go back to watching jeremy Kyle ffs!

Thank You

Sunny Das says:

I totally agree with Jamie that autism is no laughing matter especially as suffer from autism and like Jamie i graduated from uni and I have first hand experience of how difficult dealing with autism is.

I think that there should be more DI’S such as Julia. Keep up the good work and God bless you

Autistic Driving School shows that autism is only a problem if you let it be and it takes stereotypical comments from a non sufferer to illustrate the problem of how blinkered people are to autism.

AUTISM IS A REAL PROBLEM WITH REAL SUFFERERS.

kathryn barlow says:

I hope the above is not referring to me Sarah Barrington,what makes you the expert,I`ve got 20 years experience of living with autism,so don`t come on here telling thw world what YOU think is acceptable behaviour from an autistic,and what YOU think can be controlled.

sarah barrington says:

I am really shocked about what some one has put on this website because people with Autism can learn to control it with the right support what they dont need is some one been blaitantly rude.

Jamie says:

I totally agree with Kathryn. I am Autistic, and am offended that you would consider my condition as entertainment. Im sure you sat there waiting for one of them to throw a fit or do something strange, cause thats what people like you expect from us, thats how we are stereotyped. Well I’ve got news for you: We are NOT there for your entertainment!

I felt this show did a lot to show that people with autisim can achieve THE SAME things that A-Typical people can. I was told I would never read and write to an acceptable level, but I have recently Graduated from uni with Honours. Which was very hard considering I also suffer from Dyslexia.

And how DARE you say these individuals passed with ease! How do you know? As a student I had to study TWICE as hard as everyone else because of my autisim. Driving is hard anyway when you’re an A-Typical! Now my mother had some doubts about me driving,because she thought my autisim may get in the way and she was frightned for my safety in the car. But after this programme she is more laid back about me taking the test and driving my own car.

So thank you BBC!!

kathryn barlow says:

Sorry but being autistic isn`t about being `entertaining` or putting on a freak show for people like you,if you want entertainment watch britains got talent for god`s sake.This programme showed me that autism has possibilities Ididn`t expect and that my son might lead some sort of `normal` life one day though God help him with the kind of bigotry people like you display.