Johnny, Henry Normal's son, paintingOur fantastic supporter, the BAFTA award-winning producer, Henry Normal, has just published a new memoir A Normal Family: Everyday Adventures with Our Autistic Son with his wife, the screen writer, Angela Pell.

Henry and Angela’s new book combines humour and pathos as they share messy, honest, sometimes funny insights into their day-to-day lives.

Almost two years ago, Henry decided he needed the freedom to look after his autistic son Johnny full-time. Based in Brighton, the frequent commutes to London to Baby Cow Productions − the award-winning comedy production company he founded with Steve Coogan − had taken their toll, so he sold his shares in the company and retired from the TV and film industry.

Now his days are much freer, Henry and Angela dedicate their time to Johnny. At 19, Johnny is transitioning from school into the adult world – a time period which many autistic people find particularly challenging. To avoid placing their son in someone else’s care, Angela and Henry have renovated their home to meet Johnny’s needs – soundproofing the whole house to minimise his sensory issues as well as setting up an art space so he can enjoy his favourite pastime of painting.

A Normal Family: Everyday adventures with our autistic son

Henry and Angela are dedicated not only to Johnny but to raising awareness of autism and sharing experiences that may help other parents.

Henry started out as a stand-up poet but recently rediscovered his love of poetry publishing two anthologies: Staring Directly at the Eclipse (2016) and Raining Upwards (2017), both deal candidly with the highs and lows of parenting an autistic child. He’s also featured in a BBC Radio show A Normal Family where he approaches stories from his life with his signature comedic edge. Listen again.

Henry and Angela have encouraged their son to showcase his paintings and he has his first solo show in their home town presented by Brighton-based artists Rocket Artists, who work alongside autistic people and those with learning disabilities. During World Autism Awareness Week, they are hosting a free art exhibition at Phoenix Brighton, together with a programme of talks, workshops and happenings. The show will run for four weeks, 2-29 April, Wednesday to Sunday, 11-5pm.

Angela says, "There is a quote that goes around the parent blogs and pages of online Special Needs communities: ‘I thought I would have to teach my child about the world. It turns out, I have to teach the world about my child. I am pretty sure that through his art, Johnny is also doing his bit to educate people about expectation, expression and communication."

A Normal Family: Everyday Adventures with Our Autistic Son is available online and in bookstores. 

A book of Johnny’s art work Art By Johnny is published by Flapjack press and you can follow his artwork on Facebook.