French actor performs with autistic son in new show

Francis Perrin and his son Louis performed the show, partly to challenge misconceptions towards autism

A French actor has teamed up with his autistic son to perform an original theatre show at an educational festival, to challenge misconceptions about autism.

Actor, screenwriter and director Francis Perrin and his son Louis, who is severely autistic, performed Un Portrait de Molière en 50 Minutes (A Portrait of Molière in 50 Minutes) as part of the eighth annual Arts Musez Vous festival.

The one-day, free festival is run by secondary education and special needs centre, the Institut Don Bosco in Gradignan (Gironde, Nouvelle-Aquitaine).

It is the first time that Louis has been on stage or performed in a show.

Louis is 17 years old, and was diagnosed with severe autism 14 years ago. Since then, Mr Perrin and his wife have fought to give their son the same chances as any other child, and have publicly campaigned against misconceptions of, and prejudice towards, autism.

Severe autism can cause speech problems or a lack of verbal skills, behavioural difficulties, special needs and educational issues, mobility problems, and difficulty with social communication or adapting to change.

In 2004, one autism specialist told the couple that they should “mourn their child” - a phrase that Mr Perrin has called “unacceptable”. The couple instead opted to apply the method of “Applied Behaviour Analysis” - an non-medication-based autism management treatment technique.

Video: France Info / francetvinfo.fr

Speaking of the show, Mr Perrin said: “I am so surprised by what Louis is doing now, knowing where he started. From severe autism to now, it is a beautiful success for him, especially as he is happy.”

Michel Labardin, director of the Institut Don Bosco, said: “We are always amazed by the ability of these children and young people, who, over and above the idea that we have of them, are above all men and women with potential, and it is important that the public watches them.”

The couple has also written a book about their experiences in helping Louis, called Louis, Pas à Pas (Louis, Step by Step), which was published in 2012. It was dramatised in a TV film, Presque Comme Les Autres (Almost Like The Others), on the channel France 2, in 2016.

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