On a Spectrum
An Exploration of Asperger's Syndrome
Diagnosed with Asperger’s syndrome (AS) in late 2015, my perspective on life shifted, as this new information appeared on my horizon like a giant missing puzzle piece. I had only heard of Asperger’s in the context of whatever book or film I had been reading at that moment – it wasn’t something that stuck. I also quickly came to realise that a lot of this information is false, or wrongly stereotyped. I didn’t know anyone with Asperger’s. I had become a one percent-er.
As I read more about the condition and attended a group for the newly diagnosed, I was keen to hear more from others and how they experience their Asperger’s. Armed with a background in market research and my newfound career as an artist (ironically occurring at the same time it was first suggested I may have Asperger’s), I decided to combine the two and devised a questionnaire that would then lead on to an art exhibition. I wanted to be able to tell our story.
The aim of the survey was to get respondents (any adult with AS) to complete the questionnaire, by hand, and to use mark-making as a way to illustrate their key Asperger traits. Mark-making in this context meant using any type of line, dash, shape or symbol – anything non-literal – to describe how someone experiences their particular Asperger traits. An example of this included ‘sensory sensitivity’. There was also the option to jot down any colours that the participant felt related to these marks. These were later incorporated into the paintings created.
Completed surveys found their way back from around the UK, but also Europe, Asia and the United States. An Asperger’s community had come together to help inform the art. I compiled these responses, along with my own reactions and experiences, and created paintings, videos and creative writings. This formed my exhibition ‘On a Spectrum – an Exploration of Asperger’s syndrome’, which went onto be shown at the Peacock Gallery in Reading.
The exhibition continues to be on tour around NHS hospitals, and can currently be viewed at St Mark's Hospital, Maidenhead (Berkshire), in the main reception corridor. Free entry during normal hospital opening hours.
'Structure is logical and safe' (Structure)
'It oscillates and moves, unpredictable' (Anxiety)
'Understand your limitations' (Survival)
'Flashing lights' (Sensory Overload)
Sensory Overload Description
'There's always another way' (Unique Perspective)
Unique Perspective Description
'The sparks fly and the fuse goes' (Meltdown & Shutdown)
Meltdown & Shutdown Description
Bus Journey I
Bus Journey II
'That Lightbulb Moment'
On A Spectrum
A Bridge Between Rainbows
Video: Dr Trevor Powell talks about autism
Video: I talk about the exhibition background
"Mahlia Amatina's art is refreshingly original, and her use of colour and form is full of vitality and expression. Her exhibition provides a wonderful opportunity to raise awareness about the special relationship between autism and talent."
Video: Participants talk about their questionnaire responses