chapter  17
Surprised by beauty
Imagining Autism
ByMelissa Trimingham
Pages 14

Autistic perception, perhaps like that of Naoke's, has been called "The beautiful otherness of the autistic mind". Imagination, despite curious 'savant' abilities, is not usually associated with autism. This is because the diagnostic criteria for autism suggests autists, especially those on the severer end of the spectrum, have deficits in imagination and creativity, and even that they lack the inner life that 'neurotypicals' enjoy. Positive reappraisals of autism highlight controversy between the 'social model' of disability and mainstream attitudes to autism. Traditional European and American notions of beauty, derived from aesthetic theories of Kant and Hegel, focus upon affect deriving from viewing the art object, whether within or between different cultures. The Imagining Autism 'pod' or portable indoor tent transported the children to five different places – a Forest, Outer Space, Underwater, the Arctic and under the City. The spaces in Imagining Autism were highly stimulating, but the children, even those severely affected, coped well.