MEDIA WATCH

Man with physical and mental difficulties locked in a filthy attic.

Autism is in the news again and it isn’t good. It rarely is.

Yesterday, 18th February 2022, a couple were jailed for 6 years each for keeping their son locked in a filthy attic. Matthew Langley, 22, who has learning difficulties and suffers from irritable bowel syndrome, double-incontinence and arthritis, was found severely dehydrated in the bedroom, which rescuers described as littered with piles of rubbish and soiled with vomit and faeces.

Police found faeces and vomit over the floor, bedding, and dormer window of the attic room

Whist I am disgusted with the treatment of Mr Langley, and believe that his mother Lorna Hewitt, 43, and husband Craig Hewitt, 42 were rightly given custodial sentences I have a problem with the reportage on the BBC News website under Regions/Sheffield and South Yorkshire and also on Look North (Yorkshire). They put the word ‘autistic’ in their headlines. Yes Mr Langley is autistic, but there are problems with the reportage:

  • Was the reason the room was covered in faeces because of autism or because he was locked in a room and suffers from irritable bowel syndrome and double-incontinence?
  • Was the reason cited for locking Mr Langley away because he was difficult to look after because is autistic or because he has learning difficulties arthritis?

I am saddened by the number of times people who are autistic and have learning difficulties are reported across the media as if autism and not the learning difficulties are the problem for two reasons: It puts an image in people’s heads that the two things are connected. they are not. But also because if the learning difficulties were reported as the main cause the need for better mental health care in the UK would become more obvious. That would also benefit autistic people too, we are more prone to anxiety and depression than the population as a whole.

This applies to the BBC’s local services, They need to keep up with what the BBC is doing centrally.

The A Word is a very good drama about a couple bringing up an autistic child, the series has not been cancelled, but neither has a new series been commissioned, but well done BBC.

Then there’s Autumn Watch, Winter Watch, and Springwatch presented by Chris Packham who came in as a temporary replacement for an ill Bill Oddie and is now a major presentor. Seeing an autistic person presenting a programme on their special interest is wonderful and sometimes awkward, but mostly wonderful.

The BBC allowed Packham to make a documentary about himself, “Chris Packham: Asperger’s and Me” Which is still available on the BBC Two website. A similar documentary, “Paddy and Christine McGuinness: Our Family and Autism” is available via BBC One. Again well done BBC.

The BBC has also acted to overturn reporting bans on autistic people living in institutions, including that of Tony Hickmott, also reported on this site.

So well done BBC for the positive spin you give to autism on a national level. Can you please get this positivity spread out to the regions soon, please?

By balaam

I am married with one wife, three grown kids, one cat and no hair.

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