Quarterly Global Newsletter Q4 2016
31 December 2016
Music for Autism International
This marks MFAI’s 2nd (and final) quarterly review of autistic performances across music, dance, art and sport which made news around the globe this quarter. Commencing in Q1 2017, this document will be released under a new website focused entirely on autistic performance (www.autisticperformance.com). While MFAI will still focus on music and autism, the new website is being designed to capture performance across all four of the above components, as it is our belief that performance of both increasing awareness and mitigating the stigma still associated with autism. In Q 2017, we will launch an initial autism and dance outreach programme in the UK.
A Celebration of Outsider Art (UK); Freize Week, Opening Night.
Autistica, combined with Henry Boxer Gallery and Pallant House Gallery, hosted an art exhibition and auction of outsider art, inspired by autism, neodiversity and mental health. Works of Marc Schlossman, Jon Adams, George Widener, Stephen Wiltshire and many more were on display. The keynote speech was given by Stuart Semple, a leading autistic artist who has had 15 international solo exhibitions and seen his works featured in over 40 group shows and major public art projects.
Autism and Film: “The Accountant” (US)
Produced in the US and starring Ben Affleck. This is only one of a few films produced regarding autism in the past decade (The Story of Luke – 2012, Fly Away – 2011, Adam + Mary and Max – 2009, The Black Balloon- 2008 – and Life, Illustrated – see below)
The film involves a math savant who he works as a freelance accountant for some of the world's most dangerous criminal organizations. This is an R rated film with average attendees of over 25, so it was not really pitched at an ASD audience.
Autistic Teenager wins top prize at arts awards (UK); Evening Standard
Christopher Edeh, 16, from Tottenham, who was diagnosed with severe autism at age 3, and finds communication very difficult, was named the gold award winner at the first Unique Art Awards for his painting of a central London scene. The awards were organised by the Mouth and Foot Painting Artists Trust Fund, a charity that supports disabled people in art, and was open to young disabled artists aged from seven to 21.
Twenty-eight other young people were honoured for their achievements, each receiving vouchers to spend at online materials supplier Great Art. Christopher won £1,000 of art vouchers for himself and £3,000 for his school, the Riverside in Haringey.
Defying expectations, people with autism are participating and excelling in sports (Sports Illustrated)
In a lengthy and well researched article, Sports Illustrated authors Jon Wertheim and Stephanie Apstein explored the increasingly visible links between sports and autism. At the professional level, there were interviews with member of the former World Champions in basketball, who did not know how to interact with an former autistic teammate, a professional UFC fighter and a Swedish hockey player, who is only one step away from the NHL.
At the amateur level, various ASD youth and their parents discuss engaging in sports at various levels of many youth sports, utilising their numerical expertise in providing statistics for the media, providing special viewing areas for autistic youth when watching a match in person; in short, using a number of innovative ways to accommodate and integrate ASD youth in sport.
In addition to improving social skills and teamwork, sports can help combat health issues among ASD youth. Recent research from CDC found that nearly 1/3 of children with autism are severely overweight, compared to 13% of typical youth. A pediatric neurologist at the Laurie Center for Autism said that 20 years ago she was not thinking about exercise at all; but is now recommending it to everyone.
North Queensland arts group using creativity to transcend verbal communication (ABC News Australia)
Without a word and armed with a paint-filled water gun, 25-year-old Matthew Deane ran in front of a hanging plastic canvas, creating art for a live audience in Mackay, north Queensland. Wet paint dripped onto the wooden floorboards, and colour splattered the walls and while there was not any verbal communication.
"Despite the fact that there's a significant disability that Matthew deals with in everyday life, that disability was of absolutely no significance at all in his artwork," said his mother, Helen Hawkins, after the performance."The people in the audience could understand the passion he was working with, and the same for Matthew Brooker — he did a fantastic job."
Deane and Matthew Brooker work with Crossroad Arts, a Mackay Australia-based arts organisation that enables people with a disability, as well as those in aged care, to access and participate in the arts. This week, the two men held their first show as individual artists. Deane showcased his performance art, which was accompanied by some self-produced music, and Brooker screened a film, documenting his friend's artistic process.
Autumn Skuthorpe, the arts worker from Crossroad Arts who helped to organise the 12-week project, said while the whole idea came from a desire to have fun, the product helped the young men express themselves. "It's another kind of communication and it doesn't have a specific language, so anybody can access it, and I think that's important," she said.
Crossroad Arts often runs programs focusing on collaboration, where participants come together to create theatre, music, or performance art as a team.
This week, however, Deane and Brooker were able to share the artwork they had created as individuals — something Ms Skuthorpe said was vital. "Doing it as an individual is really empowering," Ms Skuthorpe said. "It gives you a different type of confidence where you know you can stand on your own two feet and say, 'I am an artist, I am a filmmaker, I am a photographer'," she said. "On a really basic intrinsic level, these tools actually make a community — they give us connection and bridges together where we get to have conversations with people from the aged care or people from disability community, or whatever."
Brooker joined Crossroad Arts nine years ago, and said while he was proud of all of his work, seeing his self-produced film entitled Trials Destination up on the screen was a new sensation. "Yeah it felt pretty special," he said.
The Autistic Adult Choir (UK)
In early December, TAAC gave two public performances, one for Aspergers London Area Group and one for a private function for Deutsche Bank, in conjunction with Austitica. The latter performance was in front of an audience of over 200 people, in St Lawrence Jewry, a Sir Christophen Wren church and the official church of the Lord Mayor of London.
Girl With Autism Sings A Stunning Rendition Of „Hallelujah‟ (Huffington Post); Claire Macdonaldhy/YouTube
Kaylee Rodgers, a 10 year old student who has autism sang the solo part for the famous “Hallelujah” tune written by Leonard Cohen during her school choir concert at Killard House School in Donaghadee, Northern Ireland. Video of the performance went viral with over 3 million downloads by Christmas.
Autistic comedians make their debut at Scottish Parliament (National Autistic Society Scotland)
A group of autistic adults performed stand-up comedy for the first time, at an event held at Scottish Parliament to celebrate the 20th anniversary of NAS’ work in Scotland.
The budding comedians took part in workshops which were led by Janey Godley and her daughter Ashley Storrie. In just nine short weeks they learned to write, hone and perform their own comedy. Janey Godley’s husband and her daughter Ashley are both autistic, meaning that the award-winning comedians were able to bring their unique experience and insight to the workshops.
This celebratory event was sponsored by Anas Sarwar MSP and routines which premiered included 'improv' between two wizards, a long and winding piece on procrastination, and some romantic maths gags. More than 100 guests attended, including Scotland’s Minister for Childcare and Early Years, Mark McDonald.
Giant Steps School, Montreal (Canada)
Designed around a previous percussion programme by Singapore’s ASD Pathlight School, Giant Steps Montreal, in conjunction with Music for Autism International (MFAI) and led by Mckenzie Camp, a San Francisco based professional percussionist, this 6 week programme had the effect of identifying 3-4 musically gifted ASD students in the school as well a finale of Bolero, led by live musicians, which saw all 90 children in the school on stage playing some form of percussion.
The concert and excerpts were filmed by CBC TV Montreal.
Life, Animated (US)
From Academy Award® winning director Roger Ross Williams, LIFE, ANIMATED is the inspirational story of Owen Suskind, a young man who was unable to speak as a child until he and his family discovered a unique way to communicate by immersing themselves in the world of classic Disney animated films. While the film opened earlier this year in the US, the initial showing in London was in early December at the Odeon Cinema in Mayfair, attended by Ron Suskind, the author of the book.
Autistic Children perform to celebrate upcoming New Year in Eastern China (China);
This article is one example of China beginning to embrace autism in a more public way. China remains a priority future for MFAI.
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