For World Autism Awareness Week, which kicks off today, an autistic eight-year-old is challenging the harmful myths around autism and lack of emotion with an infinite broadcast of love.
The project is inspired by the unique, mathematical way William expresses his love by counting 'I Love Yous'. Lisa and the team recorded and programmed his voice to allow him to continue counting forever online, to share the "infinite love that can live inside an autistic heart". They are also sending postcards with messages of love to people at home to lift spirits in these uncertain times. Together, they hope to raise awareness around autism and love.
"When I was first told William might be on the spectrum, I was in denial because he was so emotional and loving," says Lisa, who also advocates for climate justice with her creative collective Vote For Climate or Die. "That didn't align with my idea of what autism was at the time, which meant I didn't get him the diagnosis he needed sooner. Many parents and adults I’ve met have shared similar experiences."
Dr Sebastian Gaigg of the Autism Research Group at City University London adds: "An unfortunate myth about autism is that individuals with this diagnosis have no emotions and that they somehow lack empathy. While ASD individuals may express and experience their emotions differently, it is not the case that they lack emotions altogether."
The infinite audio began this morning and has been programmed to continue counting 'I Love Yous' forever. The project's website iloveyouinfinity.com aims to raise money for the National Autistic Society. The team is also collecting and sharing real ASD stories of love submitted by followers on Instagram.
"When we started this project we had no idea what the world would be like by the time we finished," Lisa continues. "So we had to change course a bit. Instead of launching as a public audio installation and printing posters as planned, we're launching online and sending postcards to people stuck at home who could use a message of love. Hopefully, we can bring people some comfort while also raising awareness. ASD kids and adults need support now more than ever."