Does the label matter?

We’re continuing today with our work for ASDES. Our participants all have an autism diagnosis and are wanting to get the message out to employers that being autistic doesn’t stop them being amazing employees. We’re making a short film to explain to employers that a few small modifications to the way they do things can help make the applications process accessible to all.

It’s shouldn’t matter what type of person you have in front of you at interview, but what does matter is the style of questioning and the approach to your potential employee. Our film will discuss what questions are confusing, pointless, and overwhelming; but we’re also looking at what we can do to help employers get it right. Our group felt that clear job descriptions, giving interview candidates the questions in advance, and being open about what is expected is important to someone with autism. Hey, hang on, isn’t this important to us all? It’s not rocket science. Just be clear about what you want and everyone has a fair and equal chance!

We’re raising awareness of what it means to have autism by showing that there is no stereotype. Everyone has strengths and weaknesses, learning styles, and behavioural quirks. Around the table today were just a bunch of friends having a chat about their experiences. Their voice, and their messages, will be throughout the film that we’re making. All the ideas and questions about being employable have come from this small group of talented people. Their message so far is clear:

“Get to know me. Be patient. All you need to do is adapt a little to how I work and I’ll be the best worker you’ve ever had.”

If I was hiring, I’d take on any one of these wonderful people.

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Talk and Test Shots

We’re working closely today with the Autistic Spectrum Disorder Employment Support (ASDES) again today. The Animated ASDES project is designed to give people a voice in letting employers know what they should be doing to assist those with autism. We’ll be guiding our participants to present themselves in a short film which can be then used to educate employers.

Today has been all about getting ideas that we can work with. We’ve been talking about the application process, interview questions, what employers get right, and whether the autism ‘label’ is something that needs to be talked about. Labels help us identify our place in the world and help us feel like we belong, but they can also give others false impressions and lead to stereotyping. Of course, any good prospective employer wouldn’t use stereotypes to determine whether or not someone is any good but it does sometimes happen. To smash the stereotype we’re putting our participants in front of the camera so they have the chance to tell it like it is.

Today’s discussions are helping us form ideas on what to film and what messages we want to get across. It’s important that the finished film is something that participants can feel confident and proud of. We want to encourage employers to look at ability rather than disability, and know that with a few alterations to the employment process they are able to give these awesome people a chance to shine as part of their company.

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Small World Futures

I’m kicking off 2018 with a new group exhibition over in London. Small World Futures will be shown at the #unsettledgallery near London Bridge throughout February. The #unsettledgallery is unique in that it has no fixed address and no fixed hours. Some pieces in Small World Futures will appear for a few minutes, others perhaps for more than a day. All artworks featured in the show can be picked up by the public for free so they really could end up anywhere.

Over the last few months of 2017 Collect Connect have been discovering a small set of public art spaces (niches, ledges, railing, flowerbeds etc) called the #unsettledgallery. The artworks from 18 artists will be placed one by one in these spaces as part of the Small World Futures exhbition.

My small sculptures have been inspired by what I consider to be possible futures for the human race. All have been created from found objects and recycled parts. ‘Found’ really does mean found in my case. I’ve been out into the garden and found snail shells, pieces of bark, and bits of bamboo. I’ve matched these up with buttons, beads, and doll parts from my recycling and mending box.  By making little sculptures from these found bits and bobs I’m thinking about how our world with its limited resources needs to get more inventive if it wants to create a future for itself.

I’ll be sharing more about these pieces as they appear in the #unsettledgallery. For now you’ll have to make do with the publicity poster. You can find out more about the inclusive art exhibitions run by Collect Connect by clicking HERE.

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Time to Stop

Today we’ve been working with Swansea Carers Centre on a one day photography course looking at how we can be more mindful. Carers are often on-call 24-hours a day and with little respite from their duties and so telling you not to worry, or to empty your mind of any stress, when you have a world of responsibility on your shoulders isn’t always very practical. Instead we considered how we could be more mindful by taking time to stop and admire the world around us using cameras. Looking at life through a lens can be a great way to consider how we can be calmer within ourselves.

This morning was all about seeing and looking. We took time to examine some of the more historical aspects of Swansea. We found elephants on the High Street and dragons above Union Street which formed part of some of the old cinemas in town. We chatted about the castle and how we often overlook it as we’re whizzing past on our way to other places. Finding what makes a place tick is something that can help us come to terms with the rhythms and stresses around us. Looking, and really seeing, what we have on our doorstep can bring us closer to feeling great about what we have.

After lunch we looked at how we can create our own feeling of calm. Our participants were encouraged to find their own space and photograph what they saw when they felt they had reached a moment of calm. Creating an image of your own calm space can take a very short time and can instantly transport you back to that moment. The calm memories that our group created today should help to keep them centred and focused on the good things that are happening in the world around us. Taking a little time to stop and stare is sometimes all it takes to be more mindful about what life can be about.

 

Animated ASDES

We’re kicking off the new year with a brand new course. We’re working with ASDES to give their clients a voice in letting employers know what they should be doing to assist those with autism. ASDES help people who identify as autistic through counselling, job coaching, assessing, and training. They also give people the confidence in their ability to apply, gain, and retain employment as well as assisting with work placement and skills based learning.

Over the coming weeks we’ll be collating stories of our participants’ encounters with employers and employment services. Through a series of activities participants will benefit from learning with others about the hurdles they face in life as an individual with a diagnosis of autism. We’ll be guiding our participants to present themselves in a short film which can be then used to educate employers.

Today we have been discussing the strengths and weaknesses we feel we have and how strengths are portrayed in film and on TV. Our group said they feel a strong connection to fictional characters in films and cartoons, and were quite animated about the importance of superheroes and the roles that they have in inspiring us to be more than what we are. This lead to the question “If you were a superhero what strengths and weaknesses would you have?” All superheroes have weaknesses and vulnerabilities as well as the ability to save the world in some way.  Some strengths and weaknesses were very personal to the participants involved so we’re not sharing the lists of them here. [I mean, you wouldn’t expect Superman to tell you all about his Kryptonite problems when he’s got so much else going for him.] So here are the photographs and drawings our participants came up with to illustrate their own superhero personae.

All the superhero strengths, weaknesses, and pictures are going to be turned into a ‘Top Trumps’ style playing card for each participant. I’ve included my Top Trumps superhero alter-ego ‘The Hair’ so you can see where we’ve been headed today. We’ll be continuing with our Animated ASDES workshops later this month we’re we’ll be bringing to life the stories and experiences of our ASDES superheroes.