Why mythology and autism?

Why mythology and autism?

The idea for this project started to take shape at a meeting in 2008 with a special needs teacher, who mentioned that, in her experience and those of her colleagues, autistic children often enjoy classical myth. I began to wonder why this might be the case, and whether – as a classicist who researches, and loves, classical myth – there was anything I could contribute. I started this blog to report on my progress which was often sporadic until the launch of the Warsaw-based European Research Council-funded project Our Mythical Childhood (2016-21) to trace the role of classics in children’s culture. My key contribution to the project is an exploration of classics in autistic children’s culture, above all by producing myth-themed activities for autistic children. This blog shares my progress, often along Herculean paths.

March-April 2020

Here is what I am planning to do over several postings this Spring – to straddle Autism Awareness Week in early April. Lately, I have been overhauling my chapter for Mythical Hope, the first of the books from the ERC-funded Our Mythical Childhood project. It was presenting Hope-themed material in the autumn of 2019 that got me to look in new ways at what I had previously written. Here I put my project again under an aegis of Hope, and I’d welcome feedback!



Thursday, 5 April 2018

Poland in blue - and a world you never could have imagined

I would have loved to have been in Warsaw on Tuesday, World Autism Awareness Day, when, in solidarity with autistic people, the Palace of Arts and Culture was lit blue – along with buildings around the world, including the Empire State Building, the CN Tower in Toronto and the Shanghai Tower - there is a series of photographs from round the world here. Katarzyna Marciniak, the Our Mythical Childhood Principal Investigator told me about this yesterday and sent me the link to this newspaper report on the initiative. The report also sets out a key message from this year’s campaign, namely that autism is for life, rather than something that only effects children.

People do not outgrow autism. And what the newspaper report reflects is something that I have reflected on as well over the time I have been writing this blog – and making gradual progress towards realising my dream of creating resources that might be used by autistic children. Autism isn’t something from which someone can be cured. As Jim Sinclair said – I’ve quoted Jim Sinclair several times previously on this blog! – it is not that autism is something a person ‘has’ – there isn’t some ‘normal child hidden behind the autism.’ Indeed, ‘it is not possible to separate the autism from the person.’[1]

I am not developing resources geared towards helping children somehow outgrow autism – rather the resources are geared towards creating a gateway between two ‘worlds.’ As Jim Sinclair also says, whenever an autism person manages to ‘function at all’ in a non-autistic society, they are ‘operating in alien territory, making contact with alien beings.’ One thing I am seeking to do is to create space for autistic people to operate in a non-autistic world, and also for non-autistic people to gain a glimpse into a different way of being and of relating – into, as Sinclair put it, ‘a world you never could have imagined.’

In the next posting, I am planning to introduce a different image from the ‘gateway’ one – the image of the crossroads. This is an image I am planning on using to frame the paper that I shall be giving next month in Warsaw. Once I’ve had the green(blue…)light  for this from my colleagues, I shall share the title and abstract.


[1] Jim Sinclair, “Don’t Mourn for Us.” Autism Network International (ANI) website, http://www.autreat.com/dont_mourn.html (last accessed 31.07.17), originally published in Our Voice 1.3 (1993).

1 comment:

Susan Deacy said...

A follow-up: Katarzyna Marciniak has now sent me a link to this newpaper article which contains photographs showing just how far Poland was in blue on Tuesday! http://warszawa.naszemiasto.pl/artykul/swiatowy-dzien-swiadomosci-autyzmu-2018-budynki-w-calej,4591574,artgal,t,id,tm.html