IOE - Faculty of Education and Society


Why making 'brain hats' can teach us about autism

8 June 2017

CRAE brain hats girl smiling

Scientists from the Centre for Research and Autism in Education (CRAE) at the UCL Institute of Education (IOE) will host a workshop at the Tate Britain this Saturday 10 June that explores how we all experience the world differently through our senses.

The workshop, 'Makes Sense', is part of the final instalment of the Tate Britain's 'Diggin' the Gallery: Adventure' event, which uses concepts from the video game 'Minecraft' to engage visitors. Designed to be inclusive, the event welcomes young people and their families - especially those with special educational needs and disabilities, including autism. Visitors are invited to engage with the pieces on display at the gallery and create their own artworks.

CRAE's workshop will ask visitors to decorate their own unique 'brain hat', drawing on inspiration from the gallery and using a range of materials to reflect their favourite colours, shapes, textures and sounds around them. By using different craft materials, the visitors will reflect their sensory preferences. Each unique 'brain hat' will highlight the fact that everyone sees and experiences the world differently.

Dr Melissa Bovis, who will be co-running the workshop, said:

"This final instalment of the event takes the theme of 'adventure' mode. Our workshop will feed into this theme of exploring other people's worlds, creating another accessible version of the gallery space around them and understanding difference and diversity.

"We chose to make 'brain hats' because it helps to explain neurodiversity - that neurological differences should be recognised and respected as any other human variation. We took the same approach at the Green Man Festival last year, where we had our own stall for making these hats - it was a very visual way of explaining sensory sensitivities in autism. We also held a trainee teachers' workshop last year at the UCL Institute of Education, where we decorated "Sense-ational" umbrellas to demonstrate these differences."

Tate Diggin the Gallery

'Diggin' the Gallery' has been developed by artist and long-time CRAE collaborator, Ben Connors, and youth ambassadors. The free event is a partnership between the Schools and Teachers team at Tate London and Daytrippers charity. It aims to give visitors a deeper enjoyment of understanding art through working with practicing artists and features a silent disco, live poetry and a creative dance workshop.


Diggin the Gallery image courtesy of Ben Connors.