Through An Artist’s Eye: Felicia Browne and the Spanish Civil War

September 20, 2016 § Leave a comment

Through An Artist’s Eye is an artistic and poetic response to the life and work of British artist Felicia Browne, who volunteered in the Republican militia at the start of the Spanish Civil War, an…

Source: Through An Artist’s Eye: Felicia Browne and the Spanish Civil War

If the world were made of cheese: or why don’t you see it my way? Autism and language.

September 9, 2016 § 5 Comments


Are all my blog posts these days going to begin with a SIGH.


Today my beef, or my grudge, my complaint, my thorn in side, bug bear and/ or gripe, is the absolute and unquestioning primacy of verbal and text based language in western culture.

Can I sigh again? Yes – it’s my blog and I’ll sigh if I want to.

I have been working within a new sphere, one that is alien to me as an autistic, dyslexic. That is the world of precise writing, where spelling, punctuation and grammar matter – where accuracy is demanded in terms of exact meaning and usage of every word.

This has required several 360 degree turns.

By default I’m no respecter of language in this sense – it being a system I can’t read with any accuracy – I have to guess. But as a result of my experiences I can see that it matters a great deal to some people. Indeed I venture this is something that matters as much as dressing well/or “properly” and looking smart in some contexts. In other words it is about knowledge, influence and indeed power.

I realise that there are times when it must be worn well and I’m very grateful to those who can do this and share their gifts with those of us who can’t.

But when I write, what I draw on is a well of felt experience. Associative thinking is perhaps the cause of my “lack of care.”  I suppose that when you can’t remember with accuracy the exact meaning of all the words at your disposal – in the sensory soup of memory – you find yourself grasping them like petals or feathers. Often they seem to smell or feel about right. Or you like the sound – it matches exactly what you want to say and in the moment and you know what you mean. Quite often it is a very good match (although perhaps unusual) at other times you may have plucked a close word but not quite close enough – Mrs Malaprop was surely neurodivergent! It can actually be quite fun.

Punctuation is also a moveable feast – I’m incapable of following the rules and apply them at will. You might have to guess what I mean, and chuckle wryly at my expense.

So the precision that some people can achieve is to be admired. It is an art and also a valuable tool; I could never aspire to such a superpower. When you can’t read a system you can’t even see it let alone use it – so you have to rely on others to do this for you. Hire it in, as it were.

But what does this even feel like? You’re still one step away from the action – the child at the party of grown-ups who can do things you can’t do. Only you will never grow up, you’ll always need someone to do it for you. And what about if you can’t hire the help?


It’s been a huge struggle for me to manage my feelings of inadequacy and yes, sometimes rage, in the face of this alien world of correctness and corrections. I am rendered the slow child, forever shamefaced and wanting. No one has been cruel, unfair or unkind to me – quite the opposite – immense kindness and patience had been shown, but ultimately I am that child who couldn’t recite her times tables or spell. In my day the punishment for this was that the whole class missed break if you failed to recite whichever timetable your teacher felt moved to test you with that day. Way to be popular!


So when the coup de grace  to my most recent experiences arrived I was almost ready for it. A circumstance occurred in which a visual inaccuracy, beyond my control, took place. A case of a third party using the wrong image for promoting my work.

Having fought hard to get every comma, dot or cross right with multiple revisions and hours spent, we were going to let the visual error go.

No harm intended.

But this is my language, my world. A world where emotion and sensation can be tops, and ambiguity, accident and error enrich the process – often leading to spectacular results.

SO…this time I am letting it go, but in the future I won’t. No I won’t.

Strangely enough, an important kind of equality depends on it.

Shouldn’t accuracy in all spheres matter – if it matters at all? And I have to agree that it can and it does, more often than I’d like.

If we don’t make this point then we’re adding to the problem and the neuro-dominant verbal, text based culture will never ever get it.



A chance to view unseen works by Felicia Browne!

September 6, 2016 § Leave a comment

Felicia Browne 1904- 1936, Sketch of a nude figure seen from behind [c.1928] TGA 201023/1/12  (Tate Britain archive) This work will not be shown at the exhibition.  Through An artist’s…

Source: A chance to view unseen works by Felicia Browne!

Why you shouldn’t identify with autistic people. Try some empathy instead.

September 1, 2016 § 10 Comments


This is about when neurotypical (NT) people over-identify with an area of autistic struggle. If you’re autistic you’ll know exactly what I mean, if you’re NT – I’m not being rude but – I could be talking about you.

Why complain you ask? Identification is surely good?

Well…no actually, I don’t think it always is. In fact, this is something which can get in the way of autistic people being heard properly and fairly accommodated.

Many autistic people experience this over-identification. Often NT people begin to think that they themselves could be ‘a little bit’ autistic, with a matching and equal array of challenges.

It is a natural human response but it must be curbed when it comes to neurological difference.

This is not empathy. In fact this blocks empathy. Such NT responses are acutely demoralising for autistic people because they minimise our struggle.

And today my heart sank a little because…

Yesterday’s blog post about autistic artists and the inherent difficulties within professional structures and systems – including Arts Council England funding application processes – is already attracting the ‘me too’ response.

Autism poses unique challenges, which are not faced by NT people. This truth has to be absorbed more widely.

More specifically, if NT artists find the professional structures of the art world hostile and difficult to navigate, that sensation should be magnified twenty fold to understand the barriers to autistic professional progression.

A core challenge of autism resides in the specific area of social pragmatics, which just so happens to underpin every aspect of managing a career in the arts. Strengths in social communication are pretty much key.

This is why – of late – I consistently use the term autistic, rather than the terms neurodiverse/nerurodivergent in my blogs, because I believe specificity can be helpful in certain contexts. We are part of a larger group who are not ‘typical’, or rather which makes up a neuro-minority for whom existing societal practices and structures are disabling.

Yet we need to signal clearly exactly what our challenges consist of and I would like to try to articulate this the simplest terms regarding a defining and core aspect of our struggle.

The extreme emphasis on, and burden of social communication within an artist’s professional life creates a gross inequality for autistic artists, which operates across the board and at all levels.

I believe that if more NTs can manage the job of empathising with this – rather than imaging that they share in this singular predicament  – we will have made progress.

Every glimmer of genuine empathy really does help us move towards action and change.




Autism; invisibility & being.

August 31, 2016 § 3 Comments

It’s been a rum two days.

First, a hateful article in a UK newspaper, which I’m not going to quote or link to. Defamatory language about autistic people can and should be challenged, but traffic denied.

I refuse to amplify ignorant, stereotyping voices, and the suspicion that it was click bait all along settles in.

Second, I find some very old comments on a news feature on my art blog site which relate to my video of February 2016 in which I critique Arts Council England’s funding application process for neurodivergent artists.

Comments which would make any sentient heart bleed.

“I have accepted a residency in Iceland but I don’t think I’ll be able to go because the task of finding funding appears to be beyond me. 

I am also neurodivergent. I can’t seem to forward any of my projects because I just can’t overcome my disabilities effectively enough or find the help I need. Today I am literally just sitting crying because I can’t see a way forward…”

And suddenly I find my tolerance at a low ebb. I can’t sit back and say and do nothing. So I begin to Tweet – to various relevant bodies even though we are way after hours in the UK. These are tiny public acts, liable to be missed, and I’m suddenly also sickened by the imposed invisibility of so many of my fellow autistic art professionals. It’s time to get back on my soapbox and make some noise.


I – the slow child who could not spell: autism and poetry.

August 27, 2016 § 12 Comments

Photo on 24-07-2016 at 12.59 #2

I’m about to plunge into an intense work phase to bring my project to a conclusion. Which is a bit of a jolt, having taken the scenic route for a brief and heady period, to explore the exciting practice of writing poetry as a discipline rather than a purely creative splurge. I’m learning the importance of returning to the words and sharing first drafts with others.

Poetry it seems happens in one’s own mind, on paper and in conversation. How fun is that!

This is a poem which has been hanging out to dry for about ten days. A bit like my first clothes wash at college which shrank in the tumble dryer! The dryer in this case being  exposure to critical eyes and new thought. It is now a tighter fit and beginning to take shape.

It is about my relationship to reading (as an autistic, dyslexic) and the fascination I have with a certain kind of vintage children’s literature.


That book is rubbish.
Don’t buy it, she says.

I frown inwardly
while smiling

a tightrope

But you are calling







I, plunged into
papery fragments
all sensation

on a landing
or crumpled pillow

pages crisp
between my fingers.

I, held in the author’s

the slow child

who could not

© Sonia Boué 2016

The logic of not having any: on late autism diagnosis

August 23, 2016 § Leave a comment

Photo on 23-07-2016 at 12.32

I’ve had some lovely responses to a fledgling poem called Dead Squirrel posted last week. Since then I’ve been extremely inspired and of course, poetry is fast becoming my new ‘special interest.’ A huge thank you to all of you, and a special wave to Sophie Herxheimer – for a dream crit from a National Poetry Day Ambassador no less! Please catch up with all Sophie’s brilliant projects and achievements here.

I find that although my topics are at present quite varied I’m extremely interested in articulating my experience of being autistic. I can see this becoming a thing. So here is a new poem I’m working on. Again crit is welcome.


The logic of not having any
(on late autism diagnosis)

“The unusually logical approach to life can be both a positive and a negative attribute.”

And in the middle of life, I find
that I am the odd one.

And yet, unusually logical
I spill at the ballet recital,
a concert or a play,
and dumb advertisements,
which cause my eyes to leak.

But I’ll take a scythe
where others linger in the maze,
wasting time and getting lost.

And drum inwardly,
as meetings meander into jolly rambles,
worth horning on our hiking boots for!
Because crisps and sour booze
could all be had at home.

Was that the point after all?

Unusual logic confers
the cross purpose.

And I, rarely finding myself
even on the same pages,
sit and fiddle, playing catch
with my short attention span
until it’s time to leave.

© Sonia Boué 2016

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