My Child’s Not Perfect Review: The Kids Aren’t Alright

MY CHILD’S NOT PERFECT: Tuesday 6th December, ITV1, 9pm

The title of this new ITV documentary (which concludes next Tuesday) is a little misleading. The narrator gives the statistic that ‘1 in 10 children under the age of 16 is struggling to fit in’ and I don’t suppose this rather broad diagnosis is a revelation. Perfect? You’re probably thinking that no grown-up is, let alone any child? (Suri Cruise aside perhaps).

In all seriousness however, the true aim of the programme does eventually become clear. My Child’s Not Perfect turns out to be an interesting and undeniably saddening look at behavioural issues and the ways in which they impact upon the young lives of three children. It is also a bold move by ITV, who are no stranger to documentaries of a more fun-loving and trivial nature, but who tend to shy away from a type of hard-hitting documentary usually more at home on Channel 4.

The three young people featured have some form of behavioural difficulty, each of varying types and degrees.

Ten year-old Adam’s troubles are characterised by his aggressive manner, regressive behaviour and speech and language difficulties; sixteen year old Henry has Tourettes syndrome, and has been suffering since his diagnosis with a daily battle of exhausting tics; lastly, six year old Katherine is perfectly confident and chatty at home, but a girl who has inexplicably never uttered a word at school.

As well as insight into how each child struggles to cope with their individual problems, the true heart of this documentary lies in how it has subsequently affected the parents; they are left helpless and often scared at the prospect of their child never improving. It is particularly heart-wrenching to hear the story of Adam through his mum’s eyes, and how she feels judged by the opinions of others who clearly have no idea what it means to have a child who isn’t – in her own words – ‘normal’. “I get looks as if to say ‘I’m sure daddy could pay for it’… but pay for what? He can’t have an operation which will give him a normal life.â€? she despairs. Her frustration at a lack of diagnosis for her son is conveyed heartbreakingly.

The stories of Adam, Henry and Katherine are indeed interesting, and this documentary is successful in shedding light on the sometimes blurry spectrum of emotional, behavioural and mental health issues which affect children. Sometimes though, it does cross the line into areas of rather unnecessary and manufactured drama. Watching an anxious Katherine as she visibly withdraws at school is difficult enough viewing, without the dramatic sound-effects we are given too, leaving them surplus and even a little tasteless.

Despite ITV’s production on this documentary being a bit misfired at times, it does not take away from the stories of the families featured and the brave struggles they face. There may not be an easy resolution to the story, but regardless, the search for understanding and possible treatments embarked upon makes for a revealing watch.