Among the many myths about autism, the one that is arguably the most damaging is that those with an autistic spectrum condition (ASC) cannot be creative. When pervasive in a school, those with an ASC are denied an outlet of expression that they are not only more than capable of utilising, but that is crucial to their personal and academic development.
The Create! Art for Autism competition aims to ensure that this myth holds no weight in education. Open to all young people with an ASC between the ages of 11 and 25 years old, the competition showcases how creative those with an ASC can be and highlights how cultivating creativity among autistic students can significantly improve their quality of life, facilitating experiential-based learning and instilling life-long skills.
“Many of our previous entrants have grown in confidence since entering the competition as they have been able to present their creativity and have it recognised by the wider public,” explains Eleri Collings, the competition's campaign co-ordinator. “Some have even been able to develop their artistic career as a result of the opportunities that the competition provides and leads to.”
There are six categories to enter: 2D, 3D, digital photography, digital animation, poetry and the people’s choice award. The first five are judged by an elite panel but the last, as the name suggests, is a public vote.
“The people’s choice award is one element that we feel is very important to widen the participation of friends and family and the general public in the competition,” says Collings. “The more people that get to see this great artwork and feel involved by being able to vote for their favourite the greater the multiplier effect of dispelling many of the myths around autism and creativity.”
The closing date for this year is midnight on 11 June, but that still gives schools more than a week to enter. Collings stresses that all art is welcome and she reiterates that entering is not just about winning the array of prizes, but dispelling a myth that is holding back autistic students across the UK.
“The artwork we receive is so varied and inspiring, the only advice we could give is to be original and creative, and to do what you enjoy,” she says. “This is an opportunity to educate all of us on how those with autism see and interpret the world around them.”
Last year's winner in the 3D category, Michael Gregory, is pictured above.