All of us have to use public spaces to access education, work, health care, sport and social opportunities. I often feel public places are designed and run in ways that – hopefully unintentionally – are difficult for me to use, yet most people navigate with ease. When I am in the middle of crowded places, I often feel like everyone is rushing in response to an alarm that I have not seen or heard, and I am the only person going the wrong way. I often feel overloaded by the sensory experience of streets or shops, and not just by the uncontrolled noise, motion and odour of public space, but by the boundless possibilities of all the things I know from past experience might possibly happen, and all the things my over-active imagination conjures up as a possibility that could intrude on the present. Public space is busy, complex, and unpredictable. As a pedestrian in a busy city, I often feel a sense of exclusion, which I had always attributed to my own anxiety and to me being autistic – and not to the design of public space. My pictures attempt to capture the distribution of motion and calm in a public realm, to share my sense of safety when I find somewhere out of the flow, or how to safely join the flow of people and traffic. I make pictures of public places that try to identify how I feel, and what makes a place hostile and excluding, or calming and inclusive.
(This post is derived from a presentation I gave at the AsIAm “Same Chance” Conference. I repeated the presentation to the Irish Planning Institute “Building for Everyone – Universal Design and Inclusive Public Spaces” workshop in February 2023, which was mentioned at the Joint Committee on Autism, 16 May 2023)
I am sad to be taking a break from lecturing on Autism Studies due to a number of changes imposed on the teaching team in the last couple of weeks. A reduction in coordination support and downgrading of tutorials have put me in a position where I do not feel I can continue lecturing. I do not think I would have enough support to meet the unpaid expectation on lecturers’ time, and I describe the background in full below.
I have really enjoyed the past three years and I am proud of having been a part of the team that developed the programme, pushed it through the approval process and delivered Autism Studies at UCC. The collaboration with other staff has been so fruitful and, above all, I have learned so much from the students. It has been wonderful to teach a class that has such a breadth and depth of knowledge of the subject.
News media both reflect the reality and shape perceptions about autism. This is an overview of the portrayal of autism in printed news in Ireland and the UK, with downloadable data files of the references and keyword counts for anyone who wants to examine the data. Any feedback on the existing results or further analysis would be most welcome. (Please note that the text of the articles is not included.)
News media both reflect and shape perceptions about autism. As an overview of the portrayal of autism in the news, I have searched for articles about autism and provide a downloadable data file of the references with some categories that also appear in the article. Any feedback on making the file useful to other people would be most welcome. Please note that the text of the articles is not included.
’Single-sourcing’ is a method of content management common in technical editing, and something I have used in various forms for years to manage my thoughts and notes, and (ultimately) any presentations or publications that come from them. The aspiration of single-sourcing is to have one document source which can be transformed (without further editing) into multiple output formats.
What do people write about when they are writing about “autism”?
Autism is the disease of our age. Susan Sontag introduced “Illness as Metaphor” in 1978, identifying tuberculosis as the disease of the 19th century and cancer as the disease of her own time. HIV and AIDS are the disease of the decade afterwards. Autism is a metaphor for current global concerns – all our fears of Pollution, Viral pandemics, Political aggression, Terrorism, Internet addiction and Natural disasters are encapsulated in ‘autism’ as a metaphor.
I have a history of psychiatric disorder – anxiety and depression – that did not respond well to the usual treatments, until a psychologist (thank you, Daniel Flynn) proposed a diagnosis of Asperger syndrome. This is a part of the autism spectrum and came as a surprise to me because I thought I knew what autism was, and I have relatives with a diagnosis. Asperger syndrome provided me with an explanatory framework that suddenly made sense of so many aspects of my current life difficulties and of my life history, an explanation that has been a blessing.
World Mental Health Day 2013
World Mental Health Day was first celebrated by the World Federation for Mental Health in 1992, so it is 21 years old today – with an appropriate coming-of-age theme “Mental health of older adults, addressing a growing concern“. Participants include the WHO, health services (the HSE, NHS), service users and advocacy groups (Mental Health Ireland, Aware, Grow).
A presentation looking at medical and other images of autism, from the perspective of having autism. This talk was first presented at Autism – from Adolescence to Adulthood, the Cork Association for Autism’s Irish Autism Forum in April 2013. This version was recorded at an Aspect meeting in June 2013.