Parenting is tough. It’s a constant tug-of-war between acceptance and tough love.
Marriage is a process of unending negotiation.
Extended family drives you crazy.
These timeless truths are renewed in “The A Word,” a six-episode drama about family, parenting and a child growing up in rural England who is diagnosed with autism. In its fearless specificity, “The A Word” is universal, even as it shines light on the special challenges autism imposes on that child and everyone around him. It premiered July 13 on Sundance TV.
Alison and Paul are the doting parents of Joe, who, as he marks his fifth birthday, craves music nonstop. His default mode is headphones clamped to his ears, his iPod packed with the New Wave and punk rock of his father’s youth. He knows every song’s artists, release date and, of course, complete lyrics, which he choruses with each song’s hearing. His iPod is the soundtrack of his life — and becomes the viewer’s, too.
But Joe’s precociousness is offset by his lack of connection with the outside world.
At first, Alison and Paul tell themselves and everyone else there’s nothing wrong. But evidence mounts. And then the unavoidable conclusion: Joe is on the autism spectrum.
How will Alison and Paul cope with their child’s inability to be “normal”? How can they meet the unexpected demands of this new normal?