AUTISM

Autism Roundtable // Imagining Autism

Finding Your Own Group Of Weird

Prior to the Living with Autism roundtable I had my own pre-conceived ideas about what it meant to be autistic. I bought into the Rain Man ideology and believed that autism was predominantly a male domain, with the notion that to be autistic meant living in an isolated bubble. I thought that certainly within those constraints public speaking would be impossible.

Two women on the panel, Annette and Chloe, were diagnosed as being autistic in their mid and late thirties, but were articulate, confident and gave a clear and coherent insight into their world of autism. They explained how society expected them to conform to a neurotypical model of what it is to be human, and how this leads to a myriad of mental health issues: obsessive behaviour; anxiety and sensory overload. Being female better equipped them to act out the neurotypical role publically but in their private lives they had frequent ‘melt-down’ moments. Listening to their testaments it was apparent that the reason for their late diagnosis was that as women they were able to mask things better than their male counterparts. This theme of ‘masking’ was also explored in a short film by Sharif Persaud, The Mask

Chloe showed a list of all the words that have been used by others to represent her, all derogatory and representative of the expectations of a neurotypical ideal. She now has found her ‘own group of weird’ and acknowledges that she is autistic and that is a intrinsic part of her personality. It cannot be removed. The overriding message of the roundtable was one of acceptance and inclusivity. Autism has its own set of rules. As one of the parents on the panel learnt, great minds don’t always think alike and sometimes we just have to learn to play differently and allow everyone to find their own group of weird.

-       Sandra Elkins

 

Links relevant to this diagnosis:

Imagining Autism - University of Kent

National Autistic Society

Live It Well - Kent County Council

Mental Health Matters

Autism Research Centre

SPOONFACE STEINBURG / Top Right Theatre

SPOONFACE STEINBURG / Top Right Theatre

Spoonface knows that people in operas die beautifully and she wants to die beautifully too. Diagnosed with autism, and later terminal cancer, the child walks along silver linings in this hour-long monologue. Tackling the difficulties of development disabilities and terminal illness, Spoonface’s optimism never falters, as the backing track of Puccini’s ‘O Mio Babbino Caro’ lulls us into a romantic view of death.

I AM NOT A CHILD / Dale vN Marshall

I AM NOT A CHILD / Dale vN Marshall

As the wall text of this exhibition acknowledges, the graffiti practiced on the streets of Bath and Bristol by Dale vN Marshall preceded his sectioning in the Cornwall County Asylum in 1999, but the event exerts a continuing resonance on his practice of art. His spray-paint work on the walls of public spaces transferred to private galleries and international museums as a gallery artist, but maintains its still-street aesthetic.

GUERILLA ASPIES / Paul Wady

GUERILLA ASPIES / Paul Wady

Paul Wady was accidentally diagnosed with Aspergers Syndrome at the age of 41, after a run in with the police following his behaviour in a cinema. During the 12 years since, he has collected experiential anecdotes and evidence from other people with autism diagnoses and their families, helping to create a picture of what ‘Aspie normal’ is.

EAT. SLEEP. BATHE. REPEAT. / Act One

EAT. SLEEP. BATHE. REPEAT. / Act One

The title of Eat. Sleep. Bathe. Repeat refers directly to the routines that are as vital to the residents in a home for men with “low-functioning” autism as they are to the staff. The drama begins when these routines are interrupted by the arrival of James, a young man who needs holiday work but has no experience of caring for people with disabilities.