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Expressing autism through art

DoodleBeth Member Posts: 3 Connected

Beth Wilson is an autistic artist, who can be found at DoodleBeth. This post was originally written for Disability History Month, but we're sharing it today in honour of World Autism Awareness Week. Beth talks to us about using illustrations to express what she finds difficult to convey in language.

I am autistic and sometimes I struggle with communicating what I want to, partly due to my own limitations but also because the world isn’t always ready to listen to autistic voices. I’ve been active online, trying to help promote better understanding of autism but never seemed to be getting anywhere. People skim read tweets, browse the odd article but don’t really pay much attention. That’s when art saved the day. It was mental health week, and I had read many stories from others who had been suffering with mental health problems. I decide to be brave and bare my soul in the form of a comic. Combining my words with pictures that help to illustrate what I can’t use language to say is the best way I can communicate. I can make myself understood.

image of a girl with bright pink hair and wearing glasses holding a black and white cat over her shoulder

What I wasn’t prepared for was what happened when I posted it online. I expected my few hundred followers to read it and that’s it, but a few hours after posting I’d had hundreds of retweets, replies and messages. So many people got in touch to tell them they felt the same, that they’d been through the same thing, that my comic brought comfort to them because they knew they weren’t alone. I had been saying these things for years but it wasn’t until I put into a comic format that people truly seemed to understand what I was saying. 

Being autistic and so used to not being quite understood, to have an outpouring of people saying ‘hey me too’ was the most validating experience I’ve ever had. I realised I wasn’t alone, my experiences aren’t unique and there are a lot of other people out there who have experienced the same thing. Realising I could communicate in a way that people could understand gave me a huge boost. I felt as though I was achieving something.

Since that first comic I have created several more, and have many stored in my head for the future. One that particularly stands out to me is my comic about identity first language. Autistic people are overwhelmingly in favour of using identity first language i.e. saying ‘autistic person’ rather than ‘person with autism’. So often we are told that this is wrong, that we shouldn’t define ourselves by our autism, that we should focus on the person not the diagnosis. These, often well-intentioned people, are trying to tell us how we should define ourselves when it really is up to us.

comic book style illustrations featuring an illustrated girl with pink hair and reading I am autistic autism is intertwined into my identity it is who I am I am autistic

I am proud of being autistic, I am happy that it defines me in some ways. I wanted to create something that would truly show what it means to me to be autistic and that that is the word, the identity, that I chose for myself. My comic on IFL has been shared thousands of time across the internet on social media as autistic people all over the world have stood up to say ‘this is me and I’m autistic’. Every time I make art that people relate to, that they share with the world, I feel more and more accepted. As someone who has always lived on the outside of things, never feeling like I quite fitted in anywhere, my art has given me a place in the world.

Can you relate to Beth’s story? What do you think of using art as a way to express yourself?


  • mossycow
    mossycow Member Posts: 487 Pioneering
    Yeah I totally agree, I found a lot in this post even though I'm not autistic. I find it difficult to express emotion... It's almost like if I open the stop it will all pour out and I won't have control. So I use music. I play the piano and when I'm on my own I like to play and sing and kind of let some of it out that I can't do with words.

    The other thing that resonated was what you said about validation.... I'm finding it tricky as I identify with being disabled. I use a wheelchair and without boring people with details, I'm... Well... Disabled. I can't do what typical people can and I relate with that. I am a disabled person, not a person with disabilities.... I find that sounds worse to me... Like... Poor me with disabilities rather than I'm a person who relates to being disabled.

    The word 'validation' I think explains how I feel when relating with others finding they don't quite fit into the 'average people' world we live in. That feeling of not feeling like a 'freak'... Like you're not alone  like someone else has trodden your path and is doing OK.  

    I maybe haven't expressed myself clearly, but, I appreciated your post, it was what I needed today... 
    I'm going to look at your art now  thanks x
  • debbiedo49
    debbiedo49 Member Posts: 2,904 Disability Gamechanger
  • gingertabby
    gingertabby Member Posts: 1 Connected
    edited April 2018
    What a fantastic surprise to open my newsletter and see your photo! I'm really pleased you have had such an amazing reaction to your comics, but I'm not at all surprised. They are incredible :). Oh, by the way, It's Kat from Autistic UK!


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