Tips for neurodivergent creatives

Though there still tends to be a focus on autistic people based in tech or IT, there are strong links between autism and creativity, and high representation in the creative industries more generally. I work as a visual artist, and this blog is aimed at those in their initial years of their creative careers; perhaps you’re working in theatre, as a writer, photographer, illustrator – or another area within the arts.

I hope to guide you with tips specific to being autistic, our needs, and how best to have these met and strive as a creative.

Identify your needs as an autistic creative

It’s important to understand your own condition; traits and triggers you may experience from being autistic, as well as what drives and motivates you in your creative process. This is helpful in not only better understanding yourself, which is a massive advantage that many neurotypicals don’t often stop to think about enough, but it will help you flourish in being your greatest creative self. You can figure this out through journalling or asking yourself questions; for instance, at what points and times during your work do you tend to get tired, and what in particular can overwhelm you while working? What are the triggers that inform when you need to stop and take a break? This is all useful intel in helping you pay attention to how you work best.

Also note that this changes over time, and there will be the need to be flexible around what your needs look like at certain points and stages

Ask for reasonable adjustments

Once you’ve identified your triggers and potential challenges, it’s time to do something about this and to make a plan. One way is to consider the reasonable adjustments that would make a difference to how you may be impacted. For example, if working with a client, could you ask for the work to be presented in a particular way, using certain fonts, or to be communicated in a certain format or frequency? By making it clear that these are reasonable adjustments, this will help have these needs be met. If you find certain tasks tricky because you are autistic, or are impacted by your mental health, which consequently makes completing work and associated tasks difficult, then you can consider applying to Access to Work. I wrote a two-part blog on this topic, which you can read here, while I would also recommend Disability Art Online’s (DAO) guide to Access to Work, which is specifically written for self-employed or freelance creatives.

Utilise art opportunities and commissions for disabled artists

You may or may not agree with using the term ‘disability’ in relation to how you describe being autistic, but the crux of the matter is that being an artist often takes great fortitude and resilience, and being autistic adds layers to that

Websites such as DAOUnlimited and Shape Arts provide opportunities and support for disabled artists and are well worth keeping an eye on, especially as they often partner with large art institutions and can provide an incredible platform for your talent. I would also strongly recommend asking for a support worker to help you with any Arts Council applications you write. The Arts Council have a budget for artists that need access support, and I’ve found this to be so helpful when