TV writer reveals how interview on Desert Island Discs led to autism diagnosis

Entertainment

BAFTA-winning screenwriter and playwright Jack Thorne has revealed he sought advice and was subsequently diagnosed with autism after a listener got in touch about his interview on Desert Island Discs.

Thorne, whose work includes the acclaimed This Is England series, pandemic drama Help, and The Virtues – all starring Stephen Graham – as well as His Dark Materials, the Enola Holmes films and the script for the Harry Potter And The Cursed Child theatre production, appeared on the BBC Radio 4 programme in December 2021.

Writing on Twitter, the 44-year-old told his followers he was diagnosed just before Christmas, following a “long journey” that started with a listener reaching out about his interview with host Lauren Laverne.

The listener asked if he had considered whether he might be on the autistic spectrum, he said.

“Some personal news: just before Christmas I was diagnosed autistic,” he wrote. “A long journey but one I’m very very happy to have gone on. Makes sense of stuff before, hopefully will help with stuff to come. I don’t understand it all yet, but I’m getting there.

“Bizarrely it started with doing Desert Island Discs – a very kind listener reached out and asked whether I’d considered the idea I might be autistic. My lovely agent, who got the note, thought there might be truth to it. My wife did too. So I started digging in.

“It’s a complicated process, getting diagnosed, but I found lots of kindness along the way. I’m very very very pleased to have done it, and I’m very very very pleased to know this about myself.”

More on Autism

In his Desert Island Discs interview, while choosing eight songs or recordings he would choose to be cast away with, Thorne told Laverne how he liked working on more than one project at a time as “I stop sleeping if I’m working on one project because I become obsessed with it, and not in a healthy way… sometimes having something to swap to – that you go, oh, I can still do this, I’m not terrible, I can sleep, I can turn my brain off – is very good”.

When asked about his time studying at the University of Cambridge, he told how he felt like he didn’t fit in well with other students.

“I’m really awkward and I don’t quite know how other people work and I’m constantly sort of on the outside, looking at them and going, I understand how you’re talking, I understand why you’re talking, but I don’t quite know how to get involved in the conversation.”

Thorne, who delivered the MacTaggart lecture at the 2021 Edinburgh TV Festival, calling for the industry to do more for disabled people, also spoke about being diagnosed with the skin condition cholinergic urticaria, or chronic hives – which can be caused by stress – at the age of 20.

And speaking about his inspiration for Help, he said it came from reading about COVID-19 devastating care homes in a local newspaper.

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