A new documentary movie by an autistic filmmaker chronicles his experiences growing up in County Tipperary with Asperger’s Syndrome.

“This Is Nicholas — Living With Autism Spectrum Disorder” describes Nicholas Ryan-Purcell’s grapple with the disorder along with depression, which was brought on by an early childhood bereavement.

The movie, which premiered at the 2018 New York City Mental Health Film Festival, also pays special attention to his mother’s role in recognizing his difficulties and her unrelenting pursuit to meet them head-on.

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The 29-year-old is already an award-winning documentary filmmaker after his first feature-length movie about a racehorse. “Against the Odds, Racing with Gordon Lord Byron,” won two prizes at a documentary movie festival in Hollywood for editing and best foreign feature.

Nicholas’s father, Oliver, told the Irish Examiner that wife Dorothy’s constant attention, care, and concern for her son was what saved him. “Without her, he could have ended up any way at all.”

“My job is not to be liked by my child — my job is to make sure my child is liked by everybody else,” she says, around teaching Nicholas to behave appropriately with others.

Nicholas was diagnosed with Asperger’s syndrome aged 13 and when people asked her the question: “Why label your child?” Dorothy was quick to respond: “Why not?”

“Nicholas needed help and if it took a label to get him help, bring on the label.”

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The local community also played a significant role in helping him with his challenges, which he highlights in the film.


One key influencer in his young life was neighbor John Joe McGrath, who included Nicholas in his school run and with whom he built up a close relationship.

Then one afternoon, when Nicholas was aged 10, John Joe didn’t turn up having died of a heart attack that morning.

In the documentary, Nicholas describes the incident as like a light bulb suddenly being switched off and an “almighty depression” set in.

Nicholas' fascination with steam trains was to provide extra significance in overcoming this tragedy, serving as the catalyst which released him from the grips of depression.

“I used to spend up to eight hours per day watching trains going by at our local level crossing and watching the speed of them, that’s how enthused I was by them, they were my savior from depression, were trains,” he said.

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The documentary has already screened in several theatres across Ireland and comes to the Gate Cinema in Cork on January 29th.

Have you seen the movie yet or Nicholas’ previous film about racehorse Gordon Lord Byron?

Let us know in the comments section below.