Students with autism create stunning portraits

We have been blown away by the highly creative photographs produced by young people from Walnuts College during our recent creative:connection project in Milton Keynes. In collaboration with Walnuts Care and The Stables, we worked with students who have autism or social communication difficulties to experiment with the different functions of high-quality digital cameras in our fun-filled workshops.  The project was led by our award-winning professional photographer Alicia Clarke, who encouraged the young people to explore the theme “Me, myself, I” through their photographs. She gave the young people scarves and torches wrapped in coloured pieces of cellophane, which they twirled and spun in front of a camera.

They set their cameras to a slow shutter speed to produce these evocative and energetic results, each expressing the young person’s individuality. Young people with autism and social communication difficulties can find it challenging to articulate their thoughts and feelings through language, so engaging in creative activities like photography can help them to express themselves. Giving young people with autism alternative mediums of expression, can enable them to connect with one another in a powerful, visceral way.

“One of the challenges working with young adults on the autistic spectrum is that there is a huge range of abilities and needs,” explains Alicia. “A short attention span is common so the project had to work fast; but adults on the autistic spectrum often have an intense interest in one subject so it is about harnessing that and working with subjects that are interesting to each individual.” “Using the colours and the torches really brought everything to life. We were not just pressing buttons on a camera. We were moving and creating these portraits with our bodies,” said one of the students. “I don’t have many chances to be creative so I liked being able to join in and see everyone else having a good time too.”

Read an interview with Alicia in The Plus