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A child's drawing of their experience of autism. It says

The comic book art giving children a voice

My name is Rhiannon, and I am the Co-Founder and Managing Director of Comics Youth (or on a particularly busy day… she who spins 3,000 plates!). Our mission is to provide a voice for hard to reach young people.

We provide the tools they need to express themselves; helping to improve their literacy and explore their feelings by creating comics about key issues. BBC Children in Need kindly funds our Comics 180 project, for disabled children and young people aged 8-18.

There is nothing in the world that makes me happier than knowing we have supported a young person from crisis to laugh or talk for the first time.

This involves running comics-focussed workshops to help children and young people develop their art skills, expand their narratives and communicate ideas they feel are important. It also gives us a chance to create a new generation of superheroes for disabled young people.

The project itself predominantly supports children and young people on the autism spectrum and those experiencing mental health issues. We know from our delivery experience that many young people on the autism spectrum desire to fit in and be accepted by society, yet they experience daily social rejection and struggle to make and maintain friendships with other young people.

There is also often confusion about the learning capabilities of young people on the autism spectrum. Comics 180 has enabled the celebration of humour, creativity, literacy and social awareness to fight back against stigma.

To say we are proud of our young people would be an absolute understatement!

We’ve achieved some incredible things; supporting young people to read and talk about their past experiences for the first time, helping nonverbal young people on the autism spectrum to create comic books about their lives and publishing 3,000 copies of a self-care zine by disabled young people who have experienced discrimination.

Comics Youth is led by a board of young people aged 30 and under who all have similar lived experiences to the children and young people we aim to help.

As a young person with a life limiting illness, I turned to comics to make sense of the world around me and found comfort in their pages.

Working at Comics Youth gives us the incredible opportunity to provide children and young people like ourselves with a safe space, where they can flourish from the margins of society and be themselves without any fear or judgment.

See the art created by young people from Comics Youth.

In the following section, young people from Comics Youth have kindly agreed to share and talk about some of their work.

A child's cartoon strip describing how to make friends by finding common interests and being yourself.
How to make friends
A child's cartoon strip explaining friendship groups and how it makes them feel happy making memories with other people
Friendship group

I am autistic… that doesn’t change who I am as a person.

I made this poster for our exhibition in Tate Liverpool which happened in October. I decided to draw this as we were working on art pieces to talk about what isolation means.

We learned that isolation is another word for loneliness. I wanted to do something a bit different to the norm and use my graphic design and typography skills. I think it would make a great t-shirt design!

When I drew this poster I was thinking about how I actually feel lonely too and I didn’t realise how lonely I really felt. I find it hard to talk to people because of my autism.

Well, I find it hard because people automatically decide what kind of a person I am before taking the time to get to know me. People think I don’t have feelings and that they have to treat me differently when that’s not the case at all.

I feel singled out in school and I’ve been bullied a lot because I don’t conform to what other people think normal is. Sometimes I feel like I stand out because of my tics or the way I look. Having autism is a gift and it doesn’t define who I am as a person and it doesn’t change who I’ll be in the future.

It shouldn’t change the way I’m seen or how I engage with the world. I have hobbies. I love Greek mythology and the Romans, and I love comics, which is nothing to do with my autism. I’m hopeful for the future because I know that labels don’t define you now. You can be whoever you want to be.

I hope that when people see this poster that they think about the way they see people like me who have autism and flip their perceptions on their head. At the end of the day we’re all people!

I like going to Comics Youth because I’m a part of the Comics Youth family. I’ve always found it quite hard to make friends because people think I’m a bit weird but going to comics club helped me work through my anxieties and talk to people my own age more.

Something I always struggled with as I used to live in own little bubble, really. I now have a group of friends that meet outside of the club and we go to comic book conventions every month. Something I’ve always wanted to do but never felt comfortable doing with just my mum.

The staff have helped me work on my social skills and anger issues. School was a big issue for me, but they supported me to go back and talked to my school about the bullying situation.

Over the past couple of months, I’ve actually become a Youth Mentor in the sessions and have helped other people learn to read or draw character designs. It’s really helped me unlock my heart to be honest.

My favourite activity at Comics Youth is making my Greek anthology zines and publishing them. I think a few Greek Gods had autism too so I like to write stories about them.

A child's drawing of their experience of autism. It says
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