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Stephen - Interview 32

Age at interview: 33
Age at diagnosis: 5
Brief Outline: Stephen was diagnosed with autism at the age of five. He has drawn and painted since childhood and has exhibited his work internationally.
Background: Stephen, an artist, lives with his mother and is 33 years old. Ethnic background/nationality: Black British.

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As a child Stephen, who is now aged 33, did not relate to other people or speak and autism was diagnosed at the age of five. He attended a special school where his ability to draw was recognised and encouraged. In 1987 he featured in a BBC QED programme and since then has become an internationally renowned artist. He has travelled extensively around the world drawing cityscapes, buildings, cars, taxis and buses and has recently opened a gallery in the centre of London.

Stephen lives with his mother and works two days a week in the gallery with his sister and her partner. He goes to art school one day a week and travels to and from college and the gallery on public transport by himself.   His mother has taught him to cook some meals and to wash the dishes.
 
Stephen likes drawing, listening to music, singing and watching television. His favourite films are Rainman and Saturday Night Fever which he watches regularly. He enjoys going to markets with his mother and sister at the weekends, playing the piano and spending the evening at his sister’s house, watching DVD’s and eating pizza and popcorn.

 

Stephen loves drawing, listening to music and watching films.

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Okay. So I love doing drawing, I love doing drawing sketch books for fun because that is why I like my favourites. I can do anything, like I could draw some American cars or transport, like double decker buses in London. And I could do some people and also the street scenes and landmarks, building high rise, tall buildings. Like a new proposal skyscraper, one in London. And in my life I have done a sketch book, while I am drawing I love listening to the music and also watching in my bedroom watching TV. It’s very excited.
What sort of music do you listen to?
Everything. Like R & B, hip hop, the seventies and eighties and the soul disco and everything like pop music and I love watching a bit of a celebrity and with things going on.
On the television?
Yes. 
What like Celebrity Big Brother?
Sort of. I like the real thing, like Hollywood movies, pop stars, pop artists and I like my favourite Rainman and Saturday Night Fever.
Is that your favourite film?
yes.
What is it about Rainman, what do you like about that?
He is a very nice guy. I met Dustin Hoffman in about, about I think it was eighteen years ago. And from You Magazine and me and Dustin… he said to me, “I am an excellent driver”. It is a drama movie and I watch it lots of times and sometimes I make myself laugh.
Is that some funny bits?
Yes. Funny bits.
What are the funny bits because I can’t remember them?
Never, never touch that steering wheel while I am driving. Raymond grabbed this steering wheel. Looks like a mad man. He always makes me laugh ha ha ha. Oh oh it is an example of .. I think its plays by Raymond Babbit and he had a brother with Charlie Babbit.
 

Stephen describes how he is scared of wild animals, the heavy downpour of rain and earthquakes.

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What sort of things don’t you like doing?
 I don’t like some cleaning down the kitchen because its gets sometimes a bit tired and boring because it means I have to do it there is some things, [friend] ask me to help to do some cleaning down the cookers and helping do some dishes because I wouldn’t mind doing it sometimes [laughs].
And is there anything else you don’t like?
I don’t like   wild animals because they make me scared. So I don’t like earthquakes being hit and they make themselves scary. And I don’t want to be everywhere including around the world.
Is that all wild animals or just big ones?
Just big ones. And I don’t like the horrible weather, lightning flashes and horrible noise thunder because I don’t like the heavy downpour of rain.
So would you stay at home if there was a thunderstorm?
Yes. I stayed at home. And I was sleeping at night, there’s a… I heard a rumble of thunder and I hate that lightning flash and sometimes I get scared.
Is that why you drew the picture of the earth quake?
Yes. I drew them sometimes, the earthquake. I watched the earth quake back in the seventies. It was very frightening and exciting because I don’t want it to be frightened.
 

Stephen, an artist, talks about his work.

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Can you remember when you were at school?


When I was at the age of about, I came to the school about five. I used to draw animals like giraffes and elephants and tigers and I used to do some people, men and women and London double decker buses and cars, lorries, trains and aeroplanes and houses, high rise tower blocks and churches. And then do some London landmarks including Big Ben, Houses of Parliament, St Paul’s Cathedral, Tower of London and Tower Bridge, Post OfficeTower, Nelson’s Column, Trafalgar Square and Buckingham Palace and the City of London skyline and Canary Wharf and the London’s docklands. And also American cars like seventies and eighties. And some other – even a few years later Beverley Hills 90210, Jason Priestly Shannon Doherty, Jenny Garth and Nick Perry and the rest of the cast.

 

Stephen talks about how he enjoys going to art college a few days a week.

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And so I was in art school and I do some sketch book at the art school or sometimes I am doing some, working on the etching plates on the print room. So making out of a sketch book. So I am doing some, I love to, printing is a very busy day. And I take about ten or so prints.
And did you like going to art school?
Yes. I loved being in the art school. So I used to do, I used to go to art school about three times for a week for three days. Mondays and Tuesdays and Fridays. But now I am going on only once a week, on Monday. Then on Wednesday and Friday I go to here at the gallery for twice a week. 
Yes. Well I have been at school that’s why because at school I love art school, I loved being in London Art School because I found it very interesting like do all sorts of things in the art. The print room. I like the lithograph and etching.
So you are learning new stuff?
Yes. Yes. Exactly.
Did you meet some friends at art school?
Yes. Sometimes I meet some friends and sometimes I used to talk to anybody. I talk to friends about myself and about me doing how well and good I am. And everybody’s is as good as mine. I just walked around and look at any people’s… students art. And then sometimes I buy some food at the canteen like some tea and some biscuits or cakes. And I went to the pub at the White Spur at the Kennington Road just a five minutes walk to the art school to buy food.
 

Stephen, who lives with his mother, talks about shopping and cooking.

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So what is your favourite food then?
 My favourite is chicken or turkey or roast lamb and roast potatoes added with vegetables.
Like a proper roast dinner?
Yes.
And does your mum cook a good roast dinner?
 Yes on Sundays. My favourite roast dinner I have on Sundays.
And is there any day of the week when you don’t draw?
 Mum and I went to to go out to help me to do some shopping down the road.
What in the supermarket?
Yes. Supermarkets and my mum and I went to do some money at the Queensway and coming about two or one or two fifty, draw out some money and then do some, mum and I helped to do some shopping. And sometimes I put, make myself pizza put in the oven and fish and chips in the oven to make myself food and also make myself a sandwich at break time or at lunch.
That is good. And what about breakfast?
 Yes. I make myself breakfast like a cereal and my mum makes me a big breakfast like scrambled eggs and bacon and sausage. Mum cooks it makes a big breakfast sometimes. Because I love breakfast, I love sausages and bacon and scrambled eggs.
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