A free exhibition of artefacts that have emerged from the autism community in answer to the question ‘What is autism?’ will go on display at Bishop Grosseteste University (BGU).
During a pilot project at BGU to explore autistic identity, members of BGU community, including autistic adults, parents of autistic children and those who are both, were asked to bring an item that represented autism for them.
Some finding from this project will also be published in the peer-reviewed journal Good Autism Practice.
The exhibition forms part of the university’s annual two-day Learning and Teaching Conference which is aimed at providing staff and students the opportunity to come together and refresh and develop skills in a constantly evolving sector, with updates on topics including mental health awareness, Black History Month and student engagement.
BGU has a long commitment to advocating for and sharing voices for their autistic community and has created the Autism Resources and Community HUB (ARCH), a symbiotic community of autistic students, staff and family members of autistic people, friends, allies and alumni. It is believed to be unique in the Higher Education sector and includes student support services, social activities, information and advice and a thriving participatory autism research community of academics and postgraduate researchers.
The exhibition and pilot project are being led by Dr Clare Lawrence, English subject lead on the secondary PGCE course and head of participatory autism research at BGU.
Dr Clare Lawrence said: “Traditional conceptualisation of autism suggests that autistic people struggle with figurative concepts.
“Using an artefact to ‘represent’ autism should, according to this understanding, have posed the group members with a problem. Yet increasingly this assertion of lack of metaphorical understanding in autism is being challenged, and certainly the participants in this project relished the opportunity.
“What appears in this small exhibition is an exploration of autism as articulated, by them, through toys, books, animals, objects and films.”
The exhibition is open to the public 2-3:30, Friday 1 July at Constance Stewart Hall at Bishop Grosseteste University.