Nancy Scott of Brunswick started a social community fiber circle at Spindleworks Art Center. Contributed by Brian Braley

Topsham Public Library will feature the work of neurodiverse artists online throughout April in recognition of Autism Acceptance Month.

Monique Marchilli-Barker, coordinates Topsham library’s virtual art gallery for Autism Acceptance Month. Courtesy of Topsham Public Library.

Neurodiversity is a term describing individuals with neurologically atypical patterns of thought or behavior, such as ADHD, autism, dyslexia and Tourette’s syndrome, among others.

“Autism is a misunderstood diagnosis and there are a lot of missed opportunities,” said Gallery Coordinator Monique Marchilli-Barker. “There is a movement to acknowledge they are valued members of our community, who don’t need to be kept separate.”

The Autism Society defines autism spectrum disorder (ASD) as, “a complex, lifelong developmental condition that typically appears during early childhood and can impact a person’s social skills, communication, relationships, and self-regulation.”

Autism occurs in 1 every 44 births, according to the Autism Society of Maine.

In 2014, MaineCare paid claims for over 6,098 Maine residents diagnosed with ASD. That marked a 46% increase since 2009, according to the Maine Department of Health and Human Services. The number of individuals diagnosed with autism has continued to grow because of increased awareness, improved screening and better access to health care.


Artist Kelly Weingart from Spindleworks, an art studio in Brunswick for adults with disabilities, plans to submit a piece to the gallery.

Brian Braley, manager of Spindleworks, said Weingart creates humorous paintings and drawings related to politics and pop culture.

“They’re hilarious drawings and they don’t often get seen and this is a good opportunity for people to see her work,” Braley said. “I think people will enjoy her sense of humor.”

Raymond Schram, of Freeport, helps paint recycled rope for artist Pamela Moulton’s Tempo Arts public sculpture project, “Every Tree Tells a Story” in her studio at Fort Andross Mill.  Contributed by Brian Braley.

Maine Art Gallery in Wiscasset will host a similar exhibit featuring 70 pieces from Spindleworks artists from May 7-28, while the Chocolate Church Arts Center in Bath is exhibiting Spindleworks pieces with its Headway art show through April 29, with an opening reception March 31.

“I think people with differing abilities have a voice that needs to be shared with the community and often their voices are not included,” Braley said. “The importance is to share the amazing creative skills they have because of their disabilities. Art really gives a voice to people who may also be nonverbal.”

Marchilli-Barker said she is hopeful for a flood of submissions but has a backup plan in case numbers fall short. October is World Autism Month and Marchilli-Barker hopes for an even bigger turnout from artists by then.

“As a public library, our mission is to connect to our community. And that means being inclusive of all community members. And I believe the gallery is an extension of that,” added Marchilli-Barker.

April 2 is the submission deadline for the virtual gallery. All ages and artists with neurological disabilities are encouraged to submit their work. Artists can register at

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