An insight into living with autism first, a gardening show second
I am stepping out of my normal posts a bit. I have become a fan of all the new programs about the “Spectrum” on Netflix and other channels. The most recent find has been the “Autistic Gardener” out of England that I found on the EarthX channel. I know many adults that have been diagnosed as autistic later in life. I am just so grateful that we have come to this place where we can appreciate the gifts they too have.
The reason I am focusing on this now is because it shows how a team of different types of spectrums can work together when they each have a task to do and can depend on the team to help when they feel stuck or confused. It’s quite beautiful to watch how it all comes together.
The Autistic Gardener might garner attention and it may prove to be a valuable insight into the oft-misunderstood condition. Pink-haired presenter and award-winning green-fingered type Alan Gardner sees his Asperger’s as “a gift”, giving him the ability to think laterally, and execute sublime attention to detail (“I see every spider,” he said with glee). He recruited five amateur gardeners, all on the spectrum, to help them “unlock genius” and unleash it on paying customers.
Each of his charges’ conditions manifested itself in different ways. One had an encyclopedic knowledge of plant names. Another found his cactis easier to engage with than humans. While these were all high-functioning autists, the team-work dynamic and flexibility the project required was a struggle for some. These lows were frankly but sensitively handled. Gardner worked with each on their own unique ideas, from channeling a Tim Burton obsession into a gothic grotto to building a multi-colored insect hotel with animal-shaped entrances.
His unpolished presenting style set this apart from the production company’s show in the same vein, The Undateables, in which disabled subjects are matched up. That attracted criticism for its freak show element (complete with jaunty voiceover).
In contrast, Gardner opted for a humorous transparency, including showing camera men in the vegetable patch and admitting that they needed a team of helpers to get the heavy lifting done. This wasn’t about creating a super-slick TV show, the aim was to make the participants feel they belonged and were accepted, indeed encouraged to make out-of-the-ordinary suggestions. “My ideas don’t get listened to much…I feel like close to crying, “said Victoria when she saw her insect hotel in all its glory. We sensed this was just the start.
Unlike most production teams that stays behind the scenes, this one pivoted to do the job in a different way. Here you see them throughout helping keep all calm and feeling safe. This is what brings this show its heart and soul. And each participant has their own unique spin on what to create, as above with Victoria’s insect hotel. Each participant has their own unique spin on nature and each one is them is endearing.
This post I hope will inspire you to check it out. I find these types of programs offer hope and give us better understanding of how each person can contribute when given the opportunity to do so. And gardening is such a healing activity.
You can find the Autistic Gardener on Roku, You Tube and Prime Video. And check out Netflix offerings of Love on the Spectrum, Atypical, and many more.
Inspiration comes from wherever you put your gaze 😊