Name: Dr Gareth Noble

Occupation: Associate Professor in Autism

N: Tell me about yourself and your role in this festival.

Dr. G: The idea of the festival is linked to the development we’ve been doing within the Medical School, to support Autism.

The goal was to mark the Autism Awareness Month and thankfully, the students led, beautifully and brilliantly, by Hazel. There are a series of events that are happening over the month which will end on the 23rd of April. On this date, there will be a conference that is run totally by Autistic people. So, that’s the genesis of the project, and the final day is a symbol of promoting the creativity and positivity of what Autism can bring to people.

N: What are the Festival’s main aims?

Dr. G: The primary aim for the Festival is just to create a space for people to come together, to talk about, to think about and to share their experiences. By doing so, they are opening up to a wider audience, giving a really good opportunity to do what our University is meant to do: educate, as well as empower people.

N: The Festival is also about a celebration of the positive aspects of Autism. To you, what does it mean to celebrate the positive aspects of Autism?

Dr. G: When I’m thinking about the positive aspects of Autism, it is that it can shine light in something quite beautiful. It can shine light on what people can do and achieve, no matter if they are Autistic or not. It allows people to come together to demonstrate that Autism can be a creative, innovative and positive experience.

N: During the Festival, there will be an exhibition called the ‘Moments Exhibition’, sharing the moments of those touched by Autism, what do you think can be achieved by people sharing their moments?

Dr. G: The ‘Moment’ is a great way to try to capture a single point of time that people can then share their experience of what Autism is, and what it means to them, as it will mean different things to different people. Everyone’s kind of ‘moment’ would be different, but it is still of value. It could be anything, it’s just allowing people to have a voice, and sharing their experiences. In turn, it will attempt to help other people understand what Autism means, but very much from a personal perspective because everybody is different, whether you’re Autistic or not.

N: Out of all the events that are happening throughout the month, which of these events would be most appealing to the public?

Dr. G: There’s an event plan that should be of benefit to everybody, ranging from someone with the more academic thoughts through to the information fair that is happening on the morning of the conference. Information at the fair will be shared, including updates on what is happening in South West Wales, as well as what people can access and who they can have support from. So, the morning and the afternoon’s conference is what I’m mostly looking forward to.

N: What do you hope to be the outcome of this Festival?

Dr. G: To allow a conversation to happen. To allow people to share experiences, and have a beneficial effect – whether direct or indirect – that will improve someone’s opportunity. That is the key thing about the Festival: the idea of creating opportunity. The outcome of the Festival will be promoting that people can have opportunity, through educating people about what Autism means and what Autism can do, rather than what it cannot do.

N: If there’s one thing you want people to know about Autism, what would it be?

Dr. G: Autism is an expression of individuality and we should encourage that expression and support others to make that expression. Also, deal with the barriers and challenges that people experience as we’re travelling through this Autism journey.

N: Is there anything else that you would like to mention about the festival?

Dr. G: I hope people enjoy it, get some value from it, and I hope it helps increase understanding of Autism in around the University.

Interview done by Nazirah Jasni