Asperger’s was explained; I saw it at the cinema

VNS surgery has pulled me back a bit recently, but shortly before receiving it I caught a token of surprise via email. I’d just been invited to the cinema by critically acclaimed disabled film director Nicholas Ryan-Purcell. The UK’s first showing of his award-winning documentary was due to be screened in Manchester. I felt a need to accept his invitation.

How could I refuse?

Even if you’re a film fanatic, you might not have heard Nicholas’s name before. However, a lot of my readers are from the UK, so I guess we need to switch settings. Nicholas was born in Limerick City, Ireland, in 1990, and then went on to be raised in County Tipperary. He certainly has his fans, but they more commonly sit inside his home nation. The Republic of Ireland has greatly appreciated the efforts he’s made so far with his work.

I couldn’t decline

I don’t head to the cinema as much as others, but this film sounded so interesting. The documentary was all about Nicholas’s life up until recently, and he directed and edited it as well. In Ireland, it was first released last year in April 2018.

It might seem unusual for someone who’s not yet turned 30 to review their life on screen. However, there’s one good reason he decided to do this. Nicholas’s life has been less typical than other peoples and more difficult at times too. However, he’s received help needed in life from his family, friends, neighbours and teachers. The title of what is his second film is This is Nicholas: Living with Autism Spectrum Disorder. It tells you a lot about the lifestyle of someone growing up with ASD in his home country.

Nicholas was diagnosed with Asperger’s syndrome when he was aged 13. Back then, autism was only just coming to the fore. There’s a lot to learn from his life, although I don’t want to ruin people’s opportunities to see this film in the future. I’ll mention more about how to do that later.

Do SEND pupils have better lives in Ireland?

As mentioned, Nicholas’s education was well delivered in the two towns he’s lived in. He spent most of his childhood in Emly Village but moved to Cloughjordan Village when he was 16. These towns are both in Country Tipperary. Throughout his childhood, his schools Emly National, The Abbey CBS and Nenagh CBS Secondary supported him well.

Receiving the right education can be a difficult task for children with autism in the UK. Efforts must be made to prove your worth and get into the school you desire. Right now, our country needs to deliver a better the education for SEND pupils in order to regain confidence in society.

Top quality filmmaking

In the cinema, the documentary I watched in Manchester was both educational and interesting. It offers information to both people with autism spectrum disorder and those without.

The film was shown at Manchester’s Great Northern Odeon cinema

I was more than happy to interview Nicholas after his trip to the UK. His material clearly engages people or carers of people with autism spectrum disorder.

“People keep telling me that the 52-minute documentary helps them have a better understanding of autism, helps them to help their son/daughter with autism and what resonated most with people is how a community supports an individual.”

The fact that Nicholas has always been around to meet and greet his film viewers at the cinema makes a big difference. He was quite possibly inspired by those who were friendly with him in his childhood. As he shows up to all showings of his film to answer questions afterwards, people understandably praise his actions.

“People tell me the documentary is like a package when I’m there in person to answer questions afterwards and makes the documentary ‘more real’.”

Speaking to him in the second half of October, he told me 27 cinemas have now shown his film in Ireland. Plans to show it elsewhere are due as well. He’s also had the film shown at numerous schools and three universities in his country.

The film was shown twice at the Kiln Theatre in London, and received a lot more attendees on both nights.

However, this was his first trip to the UK. There were three cinemas showings of it in total: one in my city, and two in London. In Manchester, somebody said that “people are too afraid to talk about autism in the UK and very little is being done.”

Alternative ways to raise awareness

I can only agree. This seems like the most exclusive effort any individual has made to raise awareness of ASD or any other disability in the UK. In the past, Louis Theroux has made two documentaries about autism and dementia; they were briefly shown on BBC television. At the cinema, a more distinctive impact can clearly be made – especially with a filmmaker’s presence available too.

From what I know, America has made many more films discussing autism than we have. Although their nation is more populated, ours still seems to have shied away from the subject more than it should. If that’s the case, it seems obvious it’s not acknowledging any other disabilities enough either.

I only want to thank Nicholas again for collaborating with our nation. What he showed wasn’t seen by many; less than ten people turned up in Manchester to see the film on 8 October. But, ASD is quite a common disability, and this seems like a great way to receive an education about it.

I’d certainly support similar actions by disabled people in our country. If charities supporting disabilities encouraged this sort of work, it could potentially make a massive difference.

Learn a little more

I very much recommend finding out more about Nicholas. He’s received awards for the two documentaries he’s made, and even spoke recently about his documentary possibly being released in the future on DVD. To keep track of his interesting endeavours, you should head to the Nicholas Ryan-Purcell Productions Facebook page. He has over 3,800 followers, and if you follow him on there it’s easy to track what he’s up to on a regular basis.

Nicholas has also shown his film to others in a wide range of schools and universities.

British politicians might learn a lot more if they watch the documentary in the future. Nicholas was treated well by his teachers in primary and secondary school. Despite his special needs, they offered him one-to-one support when needed. Today, he’s grateful for his education and gives a lot back to society after gaining great talents in life.

He’s helped a lot of people by raising awareness of ASD in his country. If a fairer education was offered to us in ours, I only think SEND pupils and students would appreciate it, and benefits would be gained in society as well.