The phenomena of autistic kids lining stuff up is well known. So much so, that it has almost become a stereotype. But little appreciation is given to the effort that goes into a good line. Bean will spend hours arranging his toys, and now the simple lines of his “youth” have evolved into large, complex formations of toy animals (and sometimes toy people). These are not just random clusters of objects. There is order, symmetry, aesthetics and creativity. In short, there is art.
To many neurotypical people, “autistic lining up” may seem a pointless and repetitive activity. Parents will often discourage line building in favour of more ‘useful’ pursuits. I beg to differ. The Bean loves a good line. The effort he puts into his creations is helping him learn and develop in the same way more conventional art forms do for neurotypical kids. Stopping the Bean making his lines would be akin to a parent of a normal child banning drawing in their household. We would rightly frown on any such parental fatwas against creativity as we should with a discouraging of line making.
It has often been said that autistic people lack imagination and creativity. To those in the know this is obviously complete bollocks. But, as with most pervasive misconceptions, there is a reason it exists. In my opinion this actually stems from a lack of imagination in neurotypical people. We tend think in conventional ways and only see creativity where we are conditioned to do so. Drawings and painting are art, but a line of toys is just a line of toys; an annoyance, a mess, a waste of time (and definitely not art). It is not where art should be and so we simply don’t see it. We filter out the beauty, to our loss.
Perhaps this is how the Bean feels about drawing or painting, which is why he does not draw or paint! To him maybe it’s just a pointless series of lines or splodges on paper, as vapid and devoid of meaning as line of toys is to the untrained neurotypcial mind. Who knows? The mind of a Bean is very mysterious. But what I do know is that if we can get over our prejudices about what formats of art are “acceptable”, then we too can learn to appreciate a good autistic line. Once you do then you will see a creative mind at work as rich in imagination as any neurotypcial child. Trust me, there is more to a good line than you think. So I invite you to peruse some of the work we have managed to capture on camera.