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Hidden Challenges: A Day in the Life of a Young Person with Autism Spectrum Disorder

Aiming to improve public understanding of autism spectrum disorder in young people by producing engaging visual illustrations to depict their day-to-day life.

Autism Spectrum Disorder (ASD) is a lifelong neurodevelopmental disorder characterised by difficulties in social interaction and communication, and restricted or repetitive interests and behaviour. Research suggests young people with ASD experience the world differently and may find it hard to understand other people’s behaviour and emotions. They may also find it hard to recognise what emotion they are feeling. Consequently certain situations and environments, and the feelings they evoke, may be experienced as overwhelming and stressful. This can lead to outbursts of disruptive behaviour, which other people may find confusing and distressing, leading to exclusion from social, educational and community activities.

This project came about through conversations with parents of young people with autism spectrum disorder (ASD). Some parents felt that members of the general public were not aware of the reasons behind why their children behaved the way they did, and perhaps made negative assumptions when their child became disruptive in public places. The project aimed to highlight some of the reasons behind why young people with ASD may behave in ways which members of the public find confusing and concerning. 

Focus groups with parents of young people with ASD informed the content of the final piece: four cartoon vignettes, each of which will highlight different difficulties some young people with ASD may face, and how these can lead to disruptive and challenging behaviour. The project aimed to improve public understanding and provide materials that may be used to educate different members of the public about autism spectrum disorder within different settings (e.g. within schools). Young people with autism spectrum disorder may also use the final piece as a springboard for discussion within clinical settings. 

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Project Team

The project was led by Virginia Carter Leno, a PhD student in the Department of Child and Adolescent Psychiatry, at the Institute of Psychiatry, Psychology and Neuroscience.

Virginia worked in collaboration with Dominique Sherwood, an independent graphic designer, to produce the cartoon vignettes. You can visit her website here.

‘Hidden Challenges: A Day in the Life of a Young Person with Autism Spectrum Disorder’ is a Culture at King's collaboration with the Department of Child and Adolescent Psychiatry and graphic designer, Dominique Sherwood.

This project is part of the Early Career Researchers scheme. Virginia Carter Leno has been mentored by Dr Anna Kolliakou, the Knowledge Exchange Associate for the Institute of Psychiatry, Psychology & Neuroscience.  It is supported by the university's Culture team.

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