Understanding autism
Understanding autism

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5.4 Managing exceptionality

The success and public interest enjoyed by exceptional autistic artists is as fulfilling and well-deserved as that of any gifted artist. Stephen Wiltshire has his own gallery in the Mall in London, where people can watch him creating his drawings and buy items from his extensive collection of works. Family members run the commercial side of his business.

Activity 3 Exceptional talent: positives and pitfalls

Timing: Allow about 10 minutes

In what ways do you think exceptional talent might benefit an autistic person and their family? What drawbacks might there be for the individual, and indeed for other autistic individuals and their families? Make a few notes.

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Working in a field that you enjoy and excel at is likely to be a source of well-being, self-esteem and income. Clearly, exceptionality must be managed so that the gifted autistic person is not exploited or treated as a spectacle.

Publicity for exceptional autistic talent could promote the idea that everyone on the autism spectrum has exceptional savant-type skills, such that autistic people without notable special skills and their parents may feel that everyone expects them to do something exceptional. It is important to recognise and celebrate the exceptional individuals, but not to overlook the needs and difficulties of the majority with autism without extraordinary skills.

Arabella, Iris Grace’s mother, discusses some of the pros and cons of her daughter’s talent in the following clip:

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