If you are aware of Katie Price, it’s most likely as a tabloid fixture – the former glamour model’s life is an open book, with every plastic surgery procedure and relationship drama offered up for public consumption. But Katie Price: Harvey and Me (BBC One) was a personal story of a very different kind, and one that made you view her with respect.
Price’s eldest child is disabled, with a complex combination of medical and behavioural conditions. Harvey was born with septo-optic dysplasia, a rare genetic disorder affecting his eyesight. He is autistic, with the cognitive understanding of a seven-year-old, and has hormone issues which mean his weight is difficult to control. And now Harvey is turning 18, which means he will leave the care of familiar people and places and enter a new phase of his life – a daunting prospect both for him and for Price.
Hannah Lowes’s film was a portrait of unconditional love. You were left feeling enormous admiration for the way that Price – and every other parent to a disabled child – copes with the day-to-day, particularly with other children to look after (Price has five in total). She dealt with him in an endlessly patient but no-nonsense way. Harvey is a polite, affectionate young man, a railway enthusiast with a passion for art. But when he becomes distressed, he can lash out or hurt himself, as illustrated by the holes punched in the walls.
With Harvey in his last year of children’s residential care, Price had to find a new facility to care for him as an adult. She visited places to get a feel for them, but the administrative process is lengthy and requires local authority approval. Making the wrong choice could have serious consequences. The programme included the terrible story of a 15-year-old autistic boy who was sectioned, and whose parents spent more than a year fighting to get him back.
Price has always dealt in blunt emotional honesty, and here she was no different. “You’re with Mum forever and ever and ever,” she reassured Harvey, and when she met a group of mothers in the same situation as her she admitted that she hoped to outlive him because the alternative – that he would be left without her – would be unbearable.
She wanted to protect her son, but knew that sending him to a place where he could learn independence and crucial life skills would be the best thing she could do for him. Price’s celebrity was irrelevant to the programme. She was not here as a famous person, but as a parent whose dilemma will be familiar to many.