Understanding Stanley – Mother Uses Photography To Visualize Her Son’s Autism

When Rosie Barnes‘s son Stanley was diagnosed with autism at age three, someone remarked “Oh, he looks fine to me, you’d never know.” This comment set in motion an important photography project. “I realised very quickly that the total invisibility of autism was going to be the biggest challenge of all, making it extremely difficult for other people to understand and accept Stanley and the complexities of his condition,” she says. Through photography, she set about to turn visible the invisible experience and characteristics of people on the autism spectrum. As 1 in 68 people are on the autism spectrum, it’s increasingly relevant to promote more understanding of autism: “My motivation was to raise understanding – the foundations upon which acceptance and support can be built.”

The result of her project is the book Understanding Stanley, which is currently seeking funding through a Kickstarter campaign. The book combines pictures with quotes from Rosie’s experience and people on the autism spectrum. The images together with the quotes provide a powerful insight into life with autism.

Understanding Stanley Autism

‘Making this book has helped me to understand what things might be like for him. It’s helped me to see things differently too. Not to judge, not to make assumptions – because things are not always as they seem.’

Understanding Stanley Autism

Understanding Stanley Autism

‘It feels like I’m trapped in a world where everyone has their backs to me.’
– Nita Jackson, on the autism spectrum

Understanding Stanley Autism

‘He sat there for a very long time, just staring at this kind of madness.’

Understanding Stanley Autism

‘Stanley looks like any other child, but he’s not. There’s a great amount of rigidity in his life and inflexibility in his thinking… but it’s completely impossible to know this, just by looking at him. And every single day we make wrong assumptions…’

Understanding Stanley Autism

Understanding Stanley Autism

Understanding Stanley Autism

‘There’s no order. This would make me seize up and have a panic attack.’
– Anon, on the autism spectrum
‘This is the sort of space I’d like to walk through. It has its own ideas about what order is. It’s not random and all the clumps fit together so it’s quite ordered. It’s got the calmness of an aftermath.’
– the Goth, on the autism spectrum 

 

Understanding Stanley Autism

Understanding Stanley Autism

‘There is a truth in the tale of the Ugly Duckling. If you are a swan and unrecognised as such, living with a duck family that thinks you are a duck, expects you to behave like a duck, and at times might coerce you to be more like a duck – you have a problem…
You will have poor self-esteem and the need to isolate yourself at the same time that you try not to be isolated.
‘Indeed, if things get bad enough, you will eventually decide that further attempts at communication will only bring on more trouble, so you stop trying to communicate.’
– Bob Morris, on the autism spectrum

Understanding Stanley Autism

Understanding Stanley Autism

‘I never got to finish my ice-cream.’
-Nita Jackson, on the autism spectrum

Understanding Stanley Autism

To learn more about Understanding Stanley, you can check out the Kickstarter campaign or the book’s website. To see more of Rosie’s photography, you can visit her website.




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