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.

I

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

I frown inwardly
while smiling

a tightrope
smile.

But you are calling
me.

to

a

place

I

once

knew

I, plunged into
papery fragments
all sensation

on a landing
or crumpled pillow

pages crisp
between my fingers.

I, held in the author’s
hand

the slow child

who could not
spell.

© 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

Dead Squirrel: a poetic adventure

August 18, 2016 § 19 Comments

IMG_0170IMG_0177

Photographs of the ‘dead squirrel.’

I’m trying something new. It’s linked to professional development funding from Arts Council England and my work as an artist.

I’m learning about writing poetry and exploring how to share this process and the eventual fruits of my studies in a professional context. My main interest is discovering how to combine visual imagery and poetry for exhibition or publishing. I’m interested in feedback from readers too. So far I’ve had my first professional crit on a poem, which is not quite ready yet. This one has been picked over by the most savage critics of all – my teenage kids.

See what you think and please comment (I don’t mind honesty but I would appreciate kindness).

For this poem (inspired by finding such a redolent object outside my house) I’m grateful to artist David Dipré for his comment on Instagram that my photograph of it looked like a dead squirrel. Something about this ignited my interest in writing about it.

Please share if you can I would love to get lots of feedback (gulp) signed the new risk-taking, boundary pushing  moi. xx

Dead Squirrel.
(On waking at 4 am).

A blared duet.
No radio broadcast.
Just the lives of…

I don’t know who.

Rage is an alarm call.
And then…
Fucking run!
punctuates the night.

The urban domestic
as sharp as shrapnel.

I crouch and pad down the stairs,
to slip a key in the lock.

But they do fucking run.
And now silence!

Sleep all done,
I limp to bed,
and ignite my screen.

Later on, a pavement find,
dished up for afters.

Their tryst trophy:
a dead squirrel.

Well…a Parka hood,
lying face down.

©Sonia Boué 2016

Art and Autism (a creative edge).

August 12, 2016 § 8 Comments

STU_5475DPP4_001

Photography Stu Allsop: At RE:collections at the North Wall Gallery, Oxford. 

An interesting article appeared in yesterday’s Guardian newspaper, featuring my good friend and fellow autistic artist Jon Adams.

I like this particular quotation from the piece,

“Adams says it’s impossible for his autism not to affect his work. “It’s not separate so it must inform every bit of the work I do, even at an unconscious level. I make work touching sound, finding patterns and observations from my life all woven together as one.” He feels it may even give him an advantage: “It’s both my downfall and my creative edge,” he says.”

I’m chuckling though.

“…may even give him an advantage…”

Are you kidding?

While not wishing to indulge in trumpet blowing, I have to say that autism is of course advantageous in the making of art. No question.

Jon and I have talked about this on several occasions and conclude that  art making has emerged in our lives as an inner compulsion – we live and breathe it – this is what drives us to create to our best abilities.  Hyper-focus, perfectionism, task completion and originality (by default we see things differently), are my four (not so) secret weapons.

This doesn’t make me Rain Woman!

AND there is a downside. In the making autism is an advantage, but it is in the professional development and dissemination of our work that we often suffer.

Professional structures are socially driven and thus biased against autistics.

It’s a criminal mismatch when you think about it.

All that creative talent and very little scope for opportunity.

What a waste.

 

 

 

You are my champagne: the social life of an autistic woman.

August 7, 2016 § 21 Comments

STU_5480DPP4_001

Photo by Stu Allsop

Yes.

You matter. You matter an awful lot to me. I love my fellow humans and often wonder if they love me back the same way.

Being autistic for me is largely a total blast (“co-morbid” conditions excepted). Diagnosis has opened out my horizons and I find, after a lifetime of teetering between extreme caution and bold experimentation, that there is a middle way. A me way. An existence self-determined (within the usual constraints) and mainly me shaped. I love it. Love knowing who I am, and playing to my strengths.

Without diagnosis I was often – in my own perception – the sum of my weaknesses. Holding on to the corners of my life in snatches. This was, I now think, because I didn’t know how to look after myself. So knowing makes ALL the difference to how I can live more comfortably in a sometimes hostile world.

So newsflash everyone! Autism is very different from neurotypicality. No matter how much you (neurotypical friend) empathise with me (and vice versa), your struggle will never be mine nor mine yours. We are parallel beings, always and forever. And for me parallel is where it is at. Gorgeous and fleeting or pause-full and reflective. Parallel is tops for me. Head on and glancing (in that touch laden sense) – not so much.

And so on to social contact, and one small observation among the myriad reflections that bounce across the pond of self-knowledge that comes with diagnosis.

Neurotypical people seem to cram a lot in. I’ll give you a recent example.

After one full day – admittedly a working day – of pleasant professional interaction (during which so much personal information had also been exchanged) the question of what everyone would be doing after work arose.

Hmm. I stayed quiet, while others in the group told of plans which sounded like the chapter of a novel; entire segments of buddy movies flashed before me, the jaunty theme tune of the TV series “Friends” played in my head. I struggled to focus.

As an aside – it is interesting that neurotypicals like to ask about such plans (of which they won’t be part) and I have a light bulb moment. Aha! This is so the threads of future conversations can be taken up with ease – how did it go the other night – and so on. Smooth social baton-carrying from one lap to the next of busy social lives.

I stood politely listening, nodding. My turn to speak didn’t come. It was all quite natural. No-one noticed. Except me; and I smiled to myself. Not only was the conversation about to close but I didn’t have to explain that I had no further “social plans” for the day. I could have said (in a somewhat formal in tone),

“You have filled my cup and I will now go back gratefully to my family and chill.”

It would seem to be quiet a radical statement in the context. Huh? You don’t have a plan? Er…that is my plan…AWKWARD.

Now that I’ve thought it through I see that it isn’t awkward at all. I’ll grow more confident in saying quite simply that my plan is to decompress, and thank you for asking.

But back to my theme – this “cramming” of life with people isn’t confined to the after work scene either, I notice. Social time can be followed by further social time – the cramming (for example) of a coffee/lunch/day out with me (I have puzzled) is often followed by another plan my neurotypical friends must dive off to. Needing to get back to more “urgent” socialising is a definite thing.

It can feel odd.

As in, OH?

People appear so vividly in my life that I savour and absorb them. I also need time to get back to myself, back to the quiet core of me. Too much of the other and I literally don’t know who I am.

The strangeness is that it isn’t so for everyone. That human interaction can be so casual as to facilitate a rapid pole vault from one encounter to another is quite a concept for me.

What does this tell us about the quality of social interaction in either case? I’m really not sure, but an analogy comes to mind.

Dear friends and colleagues  – when we meet I’m fully with you and you are my champagne. You DO fill my cup, and it’s delicious but will go to my head if I drink too many glasses, AND I can’t go from one glass to another in a social whirl. It simply doesn’t work that way for me.

The neurotypcials I know seem to have better heads for champagne metaphorically speaking; socialising as their lemonade to my bubbly would explain why they can drink so much more.

Intensity of experience is the difference, making serial socialising as hazardous for this autistic woman as drinking too much champagne. Think of the hangover!

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