The pitch

Did you know that 1 in 100 children in the UK are diagnosed with autism? However, autism does not affect only children – autistic children grow up to be autistic adults. There are around 700 000 people on the autism spectrum in the UK, which including their families makes a total of 2.8 million people affected by autism in their everyday life.

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While autism is incurable, the right support at the right time can make a life-changing difference.

Therefore, for my TV documentary, I decided to look into how assistance dogs can help children diagnosed with autism, and I strongly believe the topic is current, important and original.

Target audience: The target audience will be BBC 1 as they air “popular across documentaries”, which are very varied in content and style, thus aiming for a rather mainstream, demographically broad audience. BBC One state that their mission is “to enrich people’s lives with programmes and services that inform, educate and entertain”, which is exactly what I’m aiming for with my documentary.

In order to do this I will be interviewing organisations, which train assistance dogs for children with autism. Woofability are a locally based organisation, who provide trained dogs for disabled people in Dorset, Hampshire, Wiltshire, Berkshire and Surrey. Studies show that 70-80,000 people in the UK could benefit from using an assistance dog. 3,500 of them are within their area of operation. In my documentary I want to demonstrate really strong visuals, showing exactly how those dogs are being trained in order to help children with autism, what the whole process involves, how long it takes etc.

Interesting facts about autism:

  • 34% of children on the autism spectrum say that the worst thing about being at school is being picked on
  • 63% of children on the autism spectrum are not in the kind of school their parents believe would best support them
  • 17% of autistic children have been suspended from school; 48% of these had been suspended three or more times; 4% had been expelled from one or more school

What these assistance dogs do is improve the child’s wellbeing by providing independence which leads to a better self-esteem and the confidence to re-integrate into society. Case studies show that they can help children cope better with being at school and the fact that they are accompanied by the dog during classes massively improved their attendance.

The key thing I want to focus on in my documentary is my case study, that’s going to make it original and stand out. I want to do a real life story with great visuals, which would grab the attention immediately. Therefore I want to film a child with autism with their family in their everyday life. I want to capture how the dog helps the child, how the child’s life has changed since the dog walked in and all those little moments of happiness on their little face, while playing with the dog, or simply cuddling. I want to hear what the parents have to say about it from their point of view. (Of course I would need their permission to film the child.) And I believe all of these components would make a really strong, visually appealing and emotional peace, which could then help many more families, who are still struggling find a potential solution, as well as “inform and educate” the mass audience on the problem so many are dealing with every day.

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