The A Word: Episode 3
So we left the Hughes family fractured and arguing last week, does this episode bring any developments in the family’s communication with each other with the arrival of a Speech and Language Therapist? Of course it doesn’t.
This week sees the arrival of Maggy, speech and language therapist and person from Alison’s past. She gets right to business analysing the entire family, not just Joe, and pinpoints all the problems within the family unit. She teaches the whole family about communication, but the whole family isn’t quite ready to listen.
In fact the entire scene around the table discussing the best way to help Joe is horribly awkward to watch – and you can see the dislike between different family members and between Maggy and Alison. So far in this series, dad Paul has been painted as the ‘good guy’ fighting in Joe’s corner, and mum Alison is the bully of a mum (a prominent point in this episode) chasing the cure. I have to say, whilst mum remains an unsympathetic character in this episode, I got really fed up of Paul’s character. At the round table, the way he immediately joins in mocking brother-in-law with Maurice really starts to direct him on his way to being a less sympathetic character – and I think that’s the point. Paul is so convinced that everything Alison is doing is wrong (and to be fair a lot of it is), that he makes the false assumption that everything his is doing must be right.
I like the foils used in this episode, considering they main topic is poor communication, with the characters of Nicola and the music teacher whose name I cannot remember being incredibly blunt and clear communicators. Sure what they have to say isn’t always favourable, but they’re certainly effective in their communication. Considering Nicola started out the series portrayed as an unlikable character, she is beginning to grow on me with her straight-forward attitude.
Sadly, in amongst watching the different techniques Maggy demonstrates and gives the family to do, and watching them continue to fail to communicate and upset each other all over the place – the real victim of this episode is Rebecca. Pushed to one side, Rebecca is ignored and forgotten by mum and dad, leaving her angry and bitter and hurt – all quite reasonably. This culminates in Paul having to sneak in later to her performance, giving her thumbs up and so on because he thinks he’s such a great dad, and Alison completely missing it because she’s too busy trying to bully and strong-arm Maggy into being Joe’s speech and language therapist.
Nothing can highlight quite how obvious the problems this family have as the fact that even with an autistic child to be assessing, the focus of the poor communication from the SLT is on the rest of the family. It would have been good to see more techniques (better ones as well considering the SLT doesn’t give Joe any processing time when she’s playing with him), and the absence of the more accepting approaches to speech and language therapy as opposed to the “Put this in x” activity would have been good. Perhaps that is to come with the local speech and language therapist that Maggy is going to send her report to.
I don’t know if Maggy is due to come back in another episode – because there were a few things about her character left unresolved, such as why she was sat in her car watching Rebecca out with her friends, but at the very least her arrival has highlighted the big theme for this whole series: Joe has autism, autism does come with problems, but for this family autism is not the problem.
Is it worth watching?
There wasn’t a great focus on the autism part, and Joe didn’t actually feature that much in this episode considering he was being assessed. It certainly sets up the series for a dramatic next episode though, and I guess that’s kind of the point. Probably my least favourite episode so far.