VIDEO: Bexleyheath teen gives window into autism
PUBLISHED: 16:22 09 May 2013 | UPDATED: 16:22 09 May 2013
Autism is often misunderstood, but a new film produced by young people with the condition is seeking to reveal what it means and how it affects their daily lives.
Bexleyheath teenager Patrick Haswell is a campaigner for the National Autistic Society (NAS) and, along with nine other autistic young people, he has produced an animated film to highlight stress and anxiety issues experienced by those who have the lifelong developmental disability.
They received a taste of the Hollywood lifestyle when it premiered at the Curzon Theatre in central London in March, as they were interviewed, filmed, had their photos taken and took part in a question and answer session.
Patrick, 17, said: “It’s important that people understand what it’s like to be a young person living with autism and I think we achieved that with the film.
“It was really fun to make, especially as I got to work with a lot of my friends who are young campaigners.
Autism fact file
Autism is a condition which affects someone for life - specifically their social and communication abilities.
Dr Judith Gould, from nearby Bromley, pioneered the concept of the autism spectrum 40 years ago.
The spectrum is very broad and affects one per cent of adults and children in Britain.
Boys are four times more likely to be diagnosed than girls.
“I learned a lot about film-making and really hope that lots of people watch it and become more aware of young people with autism, like me.”
The animation was one of three short films shown at the Curzon as part of production company Chocolate Film’s Point of View project, supported by NAS.
Patrick, who lives in Oakhurst Avenue with his parents Miriam and Andy, and his 12-year-old brother Conor, received training on using the film-making equipment. The young people were in charge of everything from the directing, to the filming and editing. The animation was stop-motion, in the form of Wallace and Gromit.
Patrick, a student at Helen Allison School in Gravesend, added: “Young people like myself can help increase understanding of autism. There’s still a lot of mystery surrounding it and hopefully the NAS and young campaigners can look to change that.
“Making films is something I love doing and it’s something I’d love to pursue in the future, especially if I get to do it with my friends.
“Our film was the last of the three to be shown – save the best until last, I say! We tried to make the main character horrid before making him more likeable to trick the audience.”
Patrick’s mum Miriam, 45, gave an insight into what it means to have a child with autism and says the project has been extremely beneficial to her son.
“A lot of people don’t realise how much having an autistic child can change your life,” she said. “We need to make sure he’s always prepared for what he’s going to be doing and we try not to spring anything on him. If we do, he gets nervous and agitated.
“It’s been great for him to spread the word of how autism affects people and also to meet other young people like him.
“All of his family are really proud of him and he’s a great ambassador for autism.”
For information or to get involved in young campaigners visit autism.org.uk.