Magazine article Times Educational Supplement

Today's Lesson: Teens Will Be Teens

Magazine article Times Educational Supplement

Today's Lesson: Teens Will Be Teens

Article excerpt

Documentary explores life and love for students with disabilities

"My new voice is getting every girl wet." Those are the first words in a documentary about National Star College, a residential college for young people with variety of disabilities. The words ring out from a computerised wheelchair's speech synthesiser, controlled by a student with an eye for the ladies and a new weapon of seduction.

I'll admit I harboured concerns that the potentially sensitive subject matter might not be tackled empathetically in The Unbreakables: life and love on disability campus - especially given that it is produced for BBC Three, home of such elegant cultural masterpieces as Sun, Sex and Suspicious Parents.

In my time teaching young people with complex needs, I quickly learned that students approaching adulthood were far more easily defined by the stereotypical traits of youth than by any physical or learning difference. This documentary unapologetically celebrates that priority of identity. By which I mean there is a lot of snogging.

Love stories

The main love story, however, is a platonic one; a bromance between Xenon, a charismatic lad's lad, extraordinary in his defiant ordinariness, and his roommate Nash, a successful Casanova who regularly apologises for Xenon's bawdy sense of humour. This life-affirming double act express their close friendship through competition and happy insults - or "men-talk", as Xenon puts it. There's a truly heartwrenching moment when the boys, both wheelchair users, chat without a shred of self-pity about having dreams where they can walk. …

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