Image from PhD students Open Minds exhibition on autism

Improving public understanding of autism

PhD research from PBS

Open Minds is a project that aims to improve public understanding of autism by highlighting the perspectives of autistic people, their parents and their carers.

It can be hard for any one representation to capture the diversity of autism.
Open Minds / Perspectives on Autism Open Minds / Perspectives on Autism
Open Minds / Perspectives on Autism

The word “autism” encompasses both diversity and complexity. Autistic people* have unique ways of experiencing the world and perceiving others, are diverse in their abilities and behaviours, and are often represented from the “outside” by books, films, the media and science. It can be hard for society to understand their specific and complex needs, which can negatively impact their quality of life, relationships, support networks and job prospects. 


As part of his doctoral research Brett Heasman, from the Department of Psychological and Behavioural Science, has created the ‘Open Minds’ project which aims to improve public understanding of autism by highlighting the perspectives of autistic people, their parents and their carers. Brett has designed an interactive exhibition that brings research and art together, where visitors can hear the portraits speak about their experiences of life on “the spectrum”.

Brett Heasman is a third year PhD candidate in the Department of Psychological and Behavioural Science at LSE. His research specialises in understanding the social factors which extend or limit interactions for people diagnosed with Asperger’s syndrome. His research is supervised by Dr Alex Gillespie. His doctorate is funded by the Economic and Social Research Council (ESRC).

The Open Minds exhibition is in association with LSE Arts, LSE Knowledge Exchange and Impact, the Economic and Social Research Council, Sensory Spectacle, Matthew’s Hub, and the Department of Psychological and Behavioural Science.

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* Participants in the project have indicated that their preferred term is ‘autistic people’.

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