…would you take it?
This was the challenging and thought-provoking title of the art exhibition run by students Vicki Taylor and Robin Jackson to coincide with the recent Autism Residential Weekend (a bi-annual event for students on the non-campus based courses at the Autism Centre for Education and Research at the University of Birmingham). Based on the question – If you could take a pill to cure autism, would you take it? – autistic participants were invited to present artwork addressing this very issue in a variety of media. There were several submissions from autistic pupils at special schools or mainstream schools with an autism resource. All students attending the Residential Weekend were also given the opportunity to provide written answers to the question.
Here are just some of the many examples submitted (please note that artwork is not to scale):
‘Has anyone invented a pill to cure Neurotypicality?’
‘I would not want there to be a pill to cure autism. The world would be a bland and derelict place without neurodiversity. We are all expressions of humanity – all beautiful.‘
(Participants at Residential Weekend)
‘On really hard days I’d be tempted. But I don’t know who I’d end up as which would be scary. I don’t know if I would be taking it just for me or to make other people’s lives easier.’
‘A pill to allow others to understand autism would be better.’
‘No thank you. My son is perfect the way he is. If our society had evidence enough this question would not be asked.’
‘No pill. A person with autism is still that person because they have autism. Why would you want to cure individuality?’
Robin Jackson and Vicki Taylor, the exhibition organisers, answered some questions about the event:
- Why did you decide on this question about the pill?
RJ: I am tired of having to wear a happy face and having to be positive about having Asperger syndrome regardless of how I really feel. I’m tired of hearing ‘who’d want to be normal? Look at the amazing things you can do.’ I am more than an autism diagnosis, that goes for the positive things about me as well as the negative. I wanted to give people the chance to say how they really felt. I wanted people to have the chance to say ‘yes’ without it being some kind of taboo.
VT: The pill question was actually Robin’s idea but I agreed to it because it is a controversial idea which could initiate conversations about autism.
- Did anyone take offence at the question?
RJ: Not that I saw, although I think a few people were a little uncomfortable with it.
VT: Not that I know of. In fact, it was received really well and was talked about in great optimism at the workshop led by Zaffy Simone.
- Do you think it would have been the same if a non-autistic person had put this question to autistic individuals?
RJ: Yes. Non-autistic people do put this question to autistic individuals! The difference is, when a non-autistic person says it, the only acceptable answer is ‘no’. Coming from non-autistic people, the question is meant to make you look at all the positives of being on the spectrum.
VT: I think that it might not have had the same response if it came from a non-autistic person because the concept may have felt like there is a right and wrong answer. Coming from an autistic student meant that there was an option to be open within the answers.
Well done to Vicki and Robin for organising such an interesting and successful event.
Post compiled by Becky Wood.