After many years of personal struggle, in March this year a man from Enfield was finally diagnosed with autism spectrum disorder as well as marked anxiety, low mood, attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD) and dyslexia.

Since the diagnosis, which came after an MP intervened, Patrick Samuel has been able to make huge changes to his everyday life with a carer, an emotional support dog and, perhaps most importantly, art therapy.

Less than six months since putting pencil to paper Patrick began giving talks on art therapy and coping mechanisms at various events across the UK. These include The Autism Show in London earlier this year, June 2017, and will be doing so again at the Aspergers London Area Group and The Transition Event East 2017 on November 15.

As well as this, his paintings and drawings have been displayed at Art for Autism, the East Barnet Festival, the N21 Festival and the Palmers Green Art Festival. His debut solo exhibition will take place in at the Dugdale Centre from November 7 to December 2 this year, titled Escape and Return.

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These achievements are quite the feat for any individual regardless of their circumstances. Considering Patrick experiences the world as “an assault on the senses” which often prevents him from going outside, this is tremendously impressive.

“I often experience sensory overload,” he explains. “It tends to result in me shutting down. I have meltdowns where I just explode. It’s not something I decide to do, it’s something that just happens.

During a “meltdown” Patrick sometimes has blackouts and absent seizures where his behaviour will change and he will have no memory of the events. He will sometimes head bang until he is unconscious, which he has been hospitalised for in the past.

“I’ve had experiences of being restrained, or literally being backed into a corner and held down,” he tells me. “My greatest fear is being restrained again or arrested before I can get my autism alert card out.

“The world often frightens and overwhelms me. I prefer libraries, art galleries, cinemas first thing in the morning, empty cafes and restaurants where I can always order the same thing every time and sit in the same place. I don’t need to talk.”

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After losing his job as a trainee teacher in 2016 Patrick tells me he “shut down”. He was self-harming, head banging and, after not getting the support he needed from his GP, Patrick was hospitalised after trying to take his own life in December 2016.

“For a long time it seemed the only way was to go private and I was often told so, but even a private diagnosis for ASD is not an official one, so what would be the point?"

Having contacted him about his situation, local MP David Burrowes stepped in and a combination of diagnosis, cognitive behavioural therapy, counselling, medication and treatment plans started to move forward, but there is more to come.

“I’m still due for formal assessments for my ADHD and dyslexia,” Patrick tells me. “But my Asperger’s, marked anxiety and low mood were diagnosed at the same time. It was quite gruelling, there were a lot of questions that dug up a lot of sad memories and difficult experiences, as well as recent traumas. I’m glad I didn’t need another session as my case was clear; complex and challenging they said.

“What the diagnosis has also done is allow me to take ownership of my Asperger’s; to claim it and say loudly: ‘This is me, this has always been me, and it’s not my fault’, and I have so much lost time to make up for. Whilst Asperger’s limits what I can do socially and practically, it’s also gifted me with creativity that I can use to my advantage and somehow balance things in a way.”

Patrick does admit, however, that he is angry it took so long. “All those years I could’ve had help,” he reflects. “It would’ve saved me from so many things.”

After things began to move on track and he found much needed peace through art therapy, Patrick decided to speak out and share his story and his work.

“At first it was out of anger and frustration. Everyone always wanted me to keep quiet, to be nice, docile and fit in. I realized those emotions were being absorbed in what I was creating. It dawned on me there was a story to tell.

“I thought if I could tell my story, it might help others to try creative therapy, or to go to their MPs and also highlight the Autism Act 2009 – that you have a right to diagnostic services if you feel you need it.”

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The first time Patrick spoke, at the Autism Show, his artwork was also displayed for the first time.

“I was non-verbal the entire morning and on the way there, which made my friend worry a lot as I was due to give a 30-minute talk after all! Just before going on I had a panic attack and started to cry because I was simply overwhelmed and scared, but he soothed those fears with some calming techniques.

“I went on and gave my talk about the benefits of art therapy. As I spoke I saw a lot of people nodding in agreement, and to my surprise, a lot of them were showing emotion at what I was saying, tearful faces.

“I wasn’t talking about statistics, training, products or trying to sell anything, I was just telling my story and showing the drawings and paintings I’d been doing between December and June. At the end everyone clapped for what seemed like a long time and I was really taken aback with emotion.”

For those considering art therapy, who might be unsure or nervous, Patrick says just “draw what you feel”.

“That’s all that matters in that moment, because it’s a unique expression of who you are in that moment.”

And for those yet to be diagnosed, yet to receive support, Patrick has some more advice.

“They are support groups out there and charities like the National Autistic Society that could help. I know it’s a difficult thing to do but it’s important not to give up. I’d urge anyone facing difficulties to fight for their rights, to contact their MP anyway, regardless of parties and politics, because it’s not about that – it’s about the help you need right now.”

Find out more about Patrick and his artwork at or donate to help fund his work at