About

Panel of 4 images on a theme of "voice". Three heads in silhouette with lines coming from mouths to indicate speech, and a megaphone.

I was in the doctor’s office, crammed in with my parents and several eager medical students, and it hit me what “voice” means.

I’d just been diagnosed with what would transpire to be the first of several physical and developmental disabilities, and chronic illnesses, and I had questions. Lots of questions. I’d never heard of the disability before, but I was feeling the stirrings of some explanations for the sometimes-quirky, sometimes-painful differences in the way my body moves, and what it will and won’t do, compared with my peers. And, as is often the case for me, I was hungry to understand. I had to know more. 

As initial questions left my lips, however, they were shot from the air in front of me:

“Just be quiet, Gill. Let the doctor speak” 

It became obvious who was to be centre-stage. My body. My news. My life taking a detour. But rather than being able to centre my concerns, and direct the shape of the discussion according to what was racing through my mind, being supported to access the knowledge and skills that were relevant and important to me at the time…I was expected to be silent. My agenda was sidelined by medical authority. I sat back, bit my tongue, and surrendered…

And these are the moments I’m passionate about understanding. I know I’m far from alone in this experience. I’m well aware that individuals and groups in society both want and need to speak in different ways, at different times – and I know that those individuals and groups can be silenced by social oppression. I care about how, and when we can speak up – and the circumstances and reasons why we may be silenced. I’m curious about the myriad ways in which we can express ourselves, and make our mark; and I’m interested in the social politics of interaction – and what this means for those of us who do not, or cannot, access normative approaches to communication. 

I explore these issues across the domains of my life, in a range of ways – including ‘formal’ social research and academic writing, poetry, visual arts (see ‘Gallery’), and performance. 

On this site, I collect ‘echoes’ of this exploration, across the following themes:

Disability and Mental Capacity (the focus of my PhD research)

Autism (and #AutisticsInAcademia) 

Advocacy 

Researcher Reflections 

You can access my blogs on this site in three different ways – (1) you can scroll through the blogs in chronological order, via the ‘blogs’ tab above, (2) you can use the ‘archive’ function on the right of the ‘home’ page, to search by calendar month, or (3) you can search for key words to find blogs on specific topics.

I hope that what I share on here encourages you to “find your voice”, and that you might wish to respond with a comment, and think about creative ways of speaking up and speaking out about things that matter to you.

About Gill Loomes

Gill Loomes has a degree in English Law and European Law, a PG Cert in Special Education (autism), a PGDipEd (Advanced PGCE) in Lifelong Learning, and an MA in Social Research. Having worked for several years in the voluntary sector as a specialist autism advocate and trainer within a UK charity, she is passionate about exploring the use of advocacy for, and within marginalized communities.

Gill’s research experience includes having worked with international NGOs, and Disabled People’s Organizations in the UK, on a range of issues affecting disabled people in contemporary society.  She has also acted as a research consultant, including for the Autism Education Trust, and holds a teaching fellowship with the Autism Centre for Education and Research (ACER)at the University of Birmingham..

Gill is proud to be working with other autistic academics as a convener of the Participatory AutismResearch Collective (PARC), and is also passionate about the use of social media in building autistic community – particularly via the Twitter hashtag #autisticsinacademia, which she started in late 2016. She is a peer development worker at Leeds Autism AIM, and a researcher at the University of Leeds.