Alternative Ways of Thinking

Benedict Phillips sits in front of a blackboard wearing a dunce hat. He is surrounded by wooden objects, and is holding a timer.
Benedict Phillips, 3D Thinking in a 2D World, Alternative Ways of Thinking
A grey landscape, a long road runs through the middle, stretching in to the distance. Along the roadside are many small flags.
Jon Adams, Flags, Alternative Ways of Thinking.

Two events organised by The Arts Catalyst and Shape, as part of The Times Cheltenham Science Festival, reflected on recent ideas about the minds of autistic and dyslexia people, and consider whether these ‘impairments’ can or should be thought about in a different way.

Exploring the Autistic Mind

The media frequently feature stories about screening for or even ‘curing’ autism, presenting it as an affliction or disease. But people with autism can become excellent scientists and engineers or excel in art and music. This discussion event considered recent ideas about the minds of autistic people: how they think, learn and experience the world.
Kathy Sykes, Professor of Sciences and Society at the University of Bristol, chaired a discussion on creativity and the autistic mind with Simon Baron-Cohen, Director of the Autism Research Centre, artist and geologist, Jon Adams, who has Asperger’s Syndrome, and Gabriel Hardistry-Miller, a non-verbal man with autism who, with artist Ben Connors, runs a music, performance and poetry club called Pig Pen. Together they will consider whether these so called ‘impairments’ should be thought of in a different way.

3D Thinkers in a 2D World, Benedict Phillips

The ability to think in a 3-dimensional, multi-sensory way is a talent that dyslexic people share, but 2-dimensional symbols and words can cause them problems and confusion. In a humorous and thought-provoking performance, artist Benedict Phillips unleashes his dyslexic side as ‘The DIV’ highlighting and examining our presumptions about intelligence, communication and perception, unravelling the numerous misconceptions surrounding dyslexia and presenting the unusual advantages it brings. ‘Everyone can be Dislecksick; you just need to try harder’.


Presented by The Arts Catalyst and Shape in partnership with The Times Cheltenham Science Festival


Jon Adams works in a variety of mediums, is a trained geologist and considers himself to to be an ‘Outsider Artist’. Adams has Asperger Syndrome (an autism spectrum disorder) and experiences synaesthesia, a neurological condition in which stimulation of one sense leads to automatic, involuntary responses in a second sense, for example, ‘seeing sounds’. The artist’s work explores sense and sensitivity through the ‘hidden’ and plays with perceptions of normal and the inaccessible.

Simon Baron-Cohen is Professor of Developmental Psychopathology at University of Cambridge and Director of the Autism Research Centre in Cambridge. He has degrees in Human Sciences from New College, Oxford, a PhD in Psychology from UCL, and an M.Phil in Clinical Psychology at the Institute of Psychiatry in London. He is the author of several books including Mindblindness, The Essential Difference, Prenatal Testosterone in Mind and Zero Degrees of Empathy, as well as the BAFTA-nominated DVDs Mind Reading and The Transporters, to help people with autism to learn emotion recognition. Recent awards include the Lifetime Achievement Award from MENSA in 2011 and the Kanner–Asperger Medal in 2013. He is a trustee of a number of autism charities, including the Autism Research Trust.

Artists websites

Jon Adams, Benedict Phillips, Pig Pen (Gabriel Hardistry-Miller & Ben Connors)


Funded by a Wellcome Trust People Award and Arts Council England