Autistics and the arts

I have a new book, called Naming Adult Autism: Culture, Science, Identity by James McGrath, (book review coming at some point) who is a Senior Lecturer at Leeds Beckett University. In the opening chapter he makes the very good point that, despite the efforts of Simon Baron-Cohen and his AQ test (2001) to make it so, a lot of autistic people aren’t particularly interested in STEM subjects and really like the arts.

I’ve just done the AQ test to help with some research at Canterbury Christ Church University and it was striking how obvious the bias against the arts – including reading fiction and appreciation of theatre – is in that test. If you enjoy fiction it counts against you. McGrath wrote an article on the subject – to which Baron-Cohen responded with what can only be described as a mealy mouthed Tweeted attempt at making his highly reductive ‘hyper-systematizing’ hypothesis relevant. It’s obvious from listening to actually autistic people that he’s way off the mark and I don’t understand how he is considered an expert.

Almost every autistic person I have interacted with either in person of online is highly creative, and many love fiction. Whether it’s making YouTube videos or writing, Auties are artists or appreciate fiction.

Here’s a list I can think of from memory:

  • Making videos about Thomas the Tank Engine,
  • creating and appreciating video games
  • gardening and garden design
  • writing,
  • drawing,
  • cat-inspired images and turning them into jewellery or domestic art,
  • photography,
  • creating videos about autistic life and experience,
  • appreciating films,
  • crafting – tactile textile crafts seem really popular,
  • poetry,
  • drama and theatre

I don’t understand why the ‘researchers’ who are pathologising us with reductive criteria are allowed to define what it means to be autistic.

Why aren’t clinicians who work closely with auties saying ‘hang n a minute, that’s not my experience says’? Since ‘researchers’ won’t listen to us, why aren’t the people they WILL listen to supporting us?

Why are our voices being ignored?


Right, rant over, I’m going to shower, at some point, read a crime novel and go to craft club to finish work on a crocheted Moomin I’m making for my sister. Armed with my headphones and sunglasses, of course.#

Ooh, in case anyone needs them, Boots do sunglasses that block peripheral sunlight and fit over ordinary glasses for £25. Been a right life-saver for me, no more squinting and eye pain from too much sunlight.

2 thoughts on “Autistics and the arts

  1. I read that book recently too and have been meaning to write a review. These days I refuse to read anything about autism that isn’t written by an autistic person.
    Also, I really need to get a pair of those sunglasses!

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