Rory Mulvey/Sundance TV
Joe McGovern
May 31, 2016 AT 04:45 PM EDT

The A stands for autism in The A Word, a six-episode series about a 5-year-old boy (Max Vento) with a spectrum disorder. The topic is tricky, but the show, written by Peter Bowker (Blackpool) and directed by Oscar nominee Peter Cattaneo (The Full Monty), is buoyed by humor, much of which revolves around the family’s reaction.

“The parents struggle with thinking, ‘Oh, our child is just eccentric,’ ” Bowker says to EW, “and that became fascinating for the drama and the comedy — because each person in this family, just like all of us, has a hidden disability of one form or another.”

Rory Mulvey/Sundance TV

The series focuses on those hidden disabilities, most interestingly in the case of the boy’s grandfather, played by Christopher Eccleston (from Doctor Who and The Leftovers), who prides himself on honesty but labors through conversations with his adult kids. “The show’s much more about communication than autism,” Bowker points out.

And 52-year-old Eccleston’s unlikeliness as a taciturn grandpa helps contribute to the show’s human comedy. “Chris still has physical vitality,” Bowker says, “and I loved the idea that the patriarch of this dysfunctional family wasn’t some gruff old fellow, but this fit guy, running up mountains. How annoying would that be for the younger generation?”

Check out the teaser (above) and the official poster (below). The A Word premieres on SundanceTV on July 13 at 10 p.m.

A version of this story originally appeared in Entertainment Weekly issue #1417/1418, on newsstands now or available here. Subscribe now for more exclusive interviews and photos, only in EW.

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