Bernadette makes work in response to deeply personal experiences, but it speaks beyond autobiography. Creating artwork about difficult scenarios, sometimes domestic and sometimes disability, she employs psychology and legal research to visually represent her own family experiences and that of other parents; Parents who are wrongly accused of fabricated or Induced Illness (Fii), Munchausen’s by Proxy, or Parental Blame.
Studies show that disabled parents appear to be four times more likely to be accused of FII than non- disabled parents and that that 1 in 5 mothers of autistic children, reported being assessed by social services. These women were 100 times more likely than the general population, to be investigated for FII child abuse.
These institutional attacks on mothers by local authorities, health and education, are rampant amongst the autism community. FII is a way of covering up systemic incompetence and silencing strong female voices. Parental Blame and FII is nothing more than a modern-day witch-hunt, with the aim of punishing those who resist neurotypical norms, oppose the patriarchy and fight against the system. Research shows that 50% of allegations of FII were made after a parent had complained about poor service by health, education or social care. Incidentally, evidence also suggests that autistic people are 9 times more likely to die by suicide and autistic women are at higher risk, 13 times more likely than non-autistic women to die by suicide. Highlighting these heinous injustices through any medium possible is the only way to put an end to these attacks on innocent families.
As a mother of autistic children, and being late-diagnosed autistic herself, Bernadette has needed to redefine what her art practice looks like, what is practical, when can it be done, and how, whilst still being raw and honest, without tearing herself apart in a live art setting.
Bernadette’s artwork is a tangible by-product from a time that traumatises her family still. Small insights in to a dark and hidden world of autistic parenting.