Creative exhibition giving autistic young people a voice

Wednesday 22 March 2023

The renowned ‘Creative Voices: What Autism Means to me’ exhibition has taken up residence in the Braid, Ballymena, and is a truly spectacular showcase of over 100 artworks created by autistic pupils from post-Primary schools throughout Northern Ireland.

Cllr McKeown presented with an artwork by Gilliam Whiteside on behalf of the Education Authority Autism Support Service

Officially launched by the Chair of Mid and East Antrim Borough Council’s Direct Services Committee, Councillor James McKeown, on 16 March, the FREE exhibition is presented by the Education Authority Autism Advisory and Intervention Service (AAIS) and will be on display at the Braid until 15 April 2023.

The exhibition – which has been receiving critical acclaim as it tours throughout NI - aims to empower autistic young people, showcasing their incredible creative talents and listening to their voice.  The artworks were developed out of positive self-identity work carried out with pupils by the Education Authority Autism Advisory and Intervention Service.

The official launch was attended by pupils and their families from Antrim and Ballymena schools, who are displaying their art work in the exhibition plus representatives from the Northern Health and Social Care Trust, Mid and East Antrim Borough Council and the Education Authority’s Autism Advisory and Intervention Service (AAIS).

Councillor McKeown said: “As a Council we recognise the importance of autism acceptance for autistic people in Mid and East Antrim and their families. As such, we are delighted to be hosting the touring Creative Voices art exhibition to coincide with Autism Acceptance Week – which takes place between 27 March and 2 April.

“Autism affects how people communicate and relate to the world around them. That is why we see value in this wonderful exhibition which aims to empower our young people and to display their incredible creative talents. It is also an important opportunity to listen to their voices so that in the wider community we can learn more about autism from the pupils themselves.”

Gillian Whiteside, EA Autism Advisory and Intervention Service commented:

“The idea for the Creative Voices: What autism means to me exhibition blossomed from our work with pupils on increasing their personal understanding and self-acceptance of autism. We felt the pupil voice should be at the heart of the exhibition and it should be a vehicle for each of our young people to express their own personal and individual experience of autism.

“The aims of the exhibition are to empower our young people, to showcase their incredible creative talents, to listen to each pupil’s voice and for the wider community to learn more about autism from the personal perspective of our autistic pupils. I really do hope it makes people reflect, understand autism at a much deeper level and will have a long-lasting positive impact”

While the touring exhibition is at The Braid, some of the artwork will be incorporated as illustrations within a new Autism Strategy for Northern Ireland which will be launched in Spring of this year. The aim of the strategy is to improve and enhance access and support for autistic people and their families across government services and the health and social care sector

The Northern Health and Social Care Trust are currently partnering with Council’s Autism Working Group to progress Mid and East Antrim becoming an Autism Friendly Borough.

Councillor Matthew Armstrong, who is a member of the Autism Friendly Steering Group, and whose son, Caleb, has autism, adds: “I am delighted that Council continues to strive for Autism friendliness and proud to welcome this innovative exhibition to the Borough. I would encourage everyone to come along, see it for yourself and learn more about autism from the personal view of these incredible young people - who are no doubt artists and stars of the future.”

For further information please email: or telephone The Braid on T: 028 2563 5077.