WHAT EXACTLY is autism? Is it a curable medial condition? And is there more than one ‘type’? These are all questions one final year student, Nikola Woodbridge from Coventry University is looking to address as part of her final year Dance and Theatre degree.
The 24-year-old who lives in Coventry is herself autistic, but she hopes to produce a feature length film concerning the benefits and barriers to people living with autism – medically referred to as a development disorder of brain functions – which affects, on average, between two to 10 people in every 10,000 according to the NHS.
Billed as a collaborative project with Birmingham University and Larry Arnold, Woodbridge will bring together a group of friends who are also autistic to produce the “Artistic Autistics” performing art film. Incidentally, Arnold is also a citizen of Coventry, and has also been diagnosed with Aspergers Syndrome – a type of autism. He has become renowned for his freelance photographic and copy writing work over recent years.
Woodbridge’s film will showcase her friends taking part in a number of varying activities, such as contemporary dance, dialogue, drama, poetry and martial arts routines, and will get its airing during the annual degree show at Coventry University later this year.
Woodbridge said: “I chose this particular project because it is very close to my heart. All my friends who took part in the film really enjoyed it and were pleased to be part of something that portrayed autism in a positive light.
“The film proves the point which is that people on the autism spectrum can learn, achieve and be creative. I hope that, if nothing else, the film could be used to promote the idea that theatre and dance should be open to more autistic people.”
In her spare time, Nikola volunteers at Broad Park House, a residential home for people with learning difficulties and autism. She also does voluntary work with the Jubilee Fun Club, a children’s club for children on the autism spectrum and the Phoenix Club, which is a mainstream group for 3 – 11 year-olds.
Once she graduates in the summer, Woodbridge will be working with ‘Coventry Moves’ – a contemporary dance group for all abilities providing dance workshops in the local area. She eventually hopes to work full-time with disability groups specialising in autism.