Occupation: Safeguard and Officer at RSPCA Llys Nini & Manager at ASDES (Autism Spectrum Disorder Employment Support)
N: Tell me a little bit about yourself and your role in this festival?
J: I’ve worked in further education for over 18 years and I’ve managed the department for young people with additional learning needs.
How I got to know about the festival is that one of our trustees Kath Prothrow had a link with the people in the MSc Autism course in Swansea University; I’ve been doing this photography project for about a year and when Kath spoked to Hazel about the project, she’d thought it’d be a good idea to put it in the festival.
N: What are you hoping to capture during the festival?
J: In the year project that we’ve done, it’s been a mixture of my two jobs; with ASDES, we do social group opportunities and take them up to Llys Nini once a month and combine their keen interest in photograph. With Llys Nini, we needed the documentation of the woodland sights, therefore we included the young people on the autistic spectrum to start capturing images in different ways to what we would generally do. We then get to use the images in the exhibit, as part of the festival and it would just help to show that the people in the autistic spectrum, are very talented.
N: What did you gain from your experience working with autistic children?
J: To see somebody grow and developing confidence and to see somebody realise that they’ve got a talent, it is just something you can’t put into words. You find something in somebody and you develop that, it’s not about how somebody fits into this job, it’s about what that person is and how you develop.
N: How do you think taking photographs (or this project) can help with autistic young individuals?
J: Communication is really difficult with people who are in the autistic spectrum, and emotions can be equally as difficult or even more difficult, we have done different types of activities to overcome this. This also meant that people were meeting new friends, socializing together and they were actually doing a very worthwhile task for another organisation.
N: What inspired you to get involved with this project?
J: I think it’s because I’ve got these two jobs and it was just something that just merged so nicely, the quiet calm place of Llys Nini and to actually use this as an opportunity for participants documenting the woods, the natural landscape and the fact that it is a social opportunity for ASDES and it just merges together beautifully.
N: What are the themes to your series of photographs?
J: There’s photographs that represents every month and that was taken by the participants and now that can be totally different and that’s really okay because there is no right or wrong with this, and that was the nice thing, nobody got anything wrong even for a blurred image. It does not matter what they looked like, but it’s the fact that somebody’s got a photograph and it will be in the exhibition.
N: If there’s one thing you want people to know about Autism, what would it be?
‘They’ve got potential, everybody’s got potential inside them, there’s an opportunity, it’s just about finding it’
Interview conducted by Nazirah