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Playing A/Part: Autistic Girls, Identities and Creativity

Project

Summary

Playing A/Part is an interdisciplinary collaboration involving drama, media arts, music and psychology. We are working  with autistic girls (aged 11-16) and a steering group of autistic women to investigate their  identities and experiences. Through this collaboration, using traditional and new methods, we are contributing new insights to autism research.

What we are addressing

Autistic women describe experiences of invisibility, masking their identities and “faking it” to be socially compliant. This results in high levels of anxiety, which impact on mental well-being, self-confidence and self-worth; this in turn can lead to increased rates of depression, self-harm and eating disorders.

There is therefore a need to support self-development and well-being in autistic girls, especially during adolescence. This is a crucial time for identity formation during which anxieties can become more pronounced in the face of increasing socio-emotional pressures.

What we are doing

The project responds to calls for more research and novel methods to document the distinctive experiences and characteristics of this under-represented group.  Improvisatory performance, music and interactive media are flexible and rich creative tools for exploring the lived experiences of this community. The project began in 2018/9 by developing a range of creative workshops in Limpsfield Grange school, the only school for autistic girls in the UK. These formed the basis of a programme of creative arts workshops for autistic girls in mainstream schools in early 2020. The advent of Covid prompted the translation of these resources to an online learning platform (Prospero) providing an easily accessible medium for autistic girls and a permanent creative resource for schools and parents educating at home.