Emma Townsend

Social isolation is a widespread contemporary problem. This isolation is often significantly heightened for young autistic adults, as their ways of engaging with the world are at times poorly understood by non-autistic people. In Episode 6 of the Creativity Talks podcast, we learn about a project seeking to alleviate this social exclusion through community music gatherings. Entitled ‘This Is Me’, this project centres on music workshops exploring how peer music making amongst young autistic adults can foster meaningful social bonds and in turn improve wellbeing.

In this episode we meet Lachie Wadsworth, a participant in a series of these mid-2021 workshops, and Grace Thompson, the project’s Chief Investigator. Grace is also an Associate Professor and Head of Music Therapy at the Melbourne Conservatorium of Music.

In Part 1, Grace and Lachie provide some background to the 'This Is Me' project and explain what occurred at these workshops. Lachie mentions the autistic peer support group Different Journeys, which you can find out about here. There's also a discussion of the writing process for a song created collaboratively at one of the workshops called ‘Lockdown 4.0’. This song explores the frustrations of Melbourne COVID lockdowns.

You can hear Grace singing the first half of 'Lockdown 4.0' at the beginning of Part 1 (and the second half of 'Lockdown 4.0' concludes Part 4 of the podcast).

And these are the lyrics to ‘Lockdown 4.0’.

Melbourne endured lengthy COVID lockdowns in 2020 and 2021. Image: Gabriel Tan, Unsplash.

          'Lockdown 4.0'

          I wake up

          It’s groundhog day

          Press conference, another delay

          Dan and ScoMo meeting on           Zoom

          And it’s going oh so slow

          Wednesdays feel like Saturdays

          Mondays feel like Sundays

          Absolutely nothing’s changed

          What day is it?

          Lockdown 4.0

          We want donut days

          Take me more than 25k’s

          To a place where there are           beautiful sunrays

Part 2 continues the discussion of the what happened at the workshops, but its focus shifts to their online iterations. The ‘This Is Me’ project consisted of two sequences of five workshops that were originally intended to have a purely physical scope. Mid-2021 lockdowns in Melbourne, however, meant that there needed to be a move online part-way through the project. In this section we also hear about the important role collaboration played in these workshops.

Lachie talks about the joy of getting out after lockdown and of walking by the Yarra on the way to the workshops. Image: Denise Jans, Unsplash

In Part 3 of our conversation, Lachie and Grace discuss the benefits of these workshops in terms of social connection and wellbeing.

In the final part of this episode, Lachie and Grace talk about future directions for the project. The difficulty of striking a balance between a loose and a rigid structure is a focus here, as is the need for greater workshop leadership by autistic young adults. Lachie and Gracie also discuss the importance of workshop accessibility and of being available to a wide range of young adults in different geographic locations. The podcast concludes with the second half of Grace's rendition of 'Lockdown 4.0'.

Many thanks, Lachie and Grace!

May 2022

Thumbnail image: Eric Nopanen, Unsplash

Header image: Haley Powers, Unsplash

I have used the term ‘autism’ rather than ‘autism spectrum disorder’ , as well as identity-first language. These terms are preferred by many autistic advocates who seek to dissuade medicalised and pathologized beliefs about neurological differences.

The ‘This Is Me’ project received seed funding from the Creativity and Wellbeing Hallmark Research Initiative.

Emma Townsend is a Research Assistant at the Creativity and Wellbeing Hallmark Research Initiative.