Radio review: It's My Story: Knowing Me, Know Autism


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The Independent Culture

There were numerous strategies open to Robyn Steward for living with Asperger's syndrome. She decided on hers at an early age. "I wanted to be like Pink Floyd … and go on tours and stuff." And that's exactly what she has done, developing what is effectively an autism roadshow, giving us "neurotypicals" an insight into life on the spectrum.

In It's My Story: Knowing Me, Knowing Autism, we heard her giving talks to schools and to parents of autistic children. At a posh school in south London, she was keen to give tips to all those future bosses on how to handle employees with Asperger's – 85 per cent of those on the spectrum don't have jobs, and you have to lament all that brainpower going to waste. Autism is an identity as much as it's a condition, she says, and she talks movingly of the "whole raft of stuff you have to deal with every single day ... how you socially interact, how you manage your senses, how you manage your emotions, how you conceptualise yourself ...."

It was a fascinating programme, but with Steward's livewire articulacy and her air of someone steaming full-speed ahead through life, if you hadn't known about her condition, you'd almost certainly not have guessed. You'd merely put her down as a tad eccentric. I was hoping that somehow I'd see the world through her eyes, in the manner of Mark Haddon's novel The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night Time. Perhaps it's a limitation of the medium, or maybe this is one of those occasions when fiction delivers more truth than statements of fact, however inspirational those facts might be.

Tweet of the Day (Radio 4, Monday-Friday *****) – what a simple little thing of beauty: brainchild of the BBC's Natural History Unit, a 90-second slot just before 6am every weekday for a year, taking a different bird native to Britain, with a snatch of its song and Sir David Attenborough – of course – giving us a few key facts. About the song thrush, for example, with its 100-phrase repertoire, or the swift, which feeds in the air, mainly on spiders floating along on bits of web, and whose young rarely land for the first 18 months of their lives. If I ever find myself getting up at 5.58am, it will make the perfect start to the day.