4 April 2019

A Nottingham College student who has autism is launching his own children’s book about a group of brave cats, during World Autism Awareness Week (1 – 7 April). The week aims to draw attention to the 700,000 people living with autism in the UK – both to educate those unaware of the condition, and to help make the world friendlier to those who are affected by it.

Twenty-two-year-old Art and Design student Ben Robson will read a chapter from his book, Kitty Realms, at a public launch, from 4pm on Sunday 7th April at Espresso Gallery on Woodborough Road in Mapperley, Nottingham. Signed copies of the book will also be available at the launch, plus an exhibition of Ben’s artwork. He will also be unveiling a preview of some of his upcoming stories.

Ben said: “I find patience very difficult, and so waiting for other people to finish their parts of the project was the hardest bit of it for me. I am very excited about the launch and I’m happy it is finally here.”

Ben’s mum Janine sadly passed away in 2017, after being diagnosed with motor neurone disease earlier that year. Since then Ben has been working with the support of his dad Ken Robson and step-dad Karsten Klups to write and illustrate the book, which is inspired by his mum’s pet cats. Ben also drew inspiration from a book his dad wrote about his rescued German Shepherd dogs. Ben illustrated that book before writing Kitty Realms.

The new book is testament to Ben’s determination to get over any barriers to success. For example, as a child he was fearful of animals, which he overcame by getting to know his dad’s rescue dog and his mum’s cats.

Ben lives with stepdad Karsten and their two cats in Mapperley. Karsten said: “Ben has always been creative but it used to take him a lot of effort to venture out of his comfort zone. Since starting the Art and Design course at Nottingham College he’s come on leaps and bounds.

“Sitting with others who share his passion for creativity has really helped with his confidence and to try new things.

“Also the gentle and welcoming approach from his tutors has been great. Ben has a universal curiosity, and now he drags me out to art galleries!”

Prior to his Art and Design course, Ben completed Supported Learning courses at the College. Tim Maroney, Supported Learning Lecturer at Nottingham College, said: “I have known Ben since he first attended the College. He is highly motivated, very imaginative and has become increasingly skilful using design software.”

Tim encouraged Ben to pursue his art through the Level 1 Art and Design course, which has helped to develop his creative skills and his employability. Tim said: “It has been a great pleasure to see Ben flourish, leading to the publication of his first book.”

Following the launch, Kitty Realms will be sold online on the tredition publishing website, and on Amazon as an e-book to download or printed on demand.

Fliss Ward, Support Tutor at Nottingham College, works with students on the autism spectrum, providing personalised support where needed to help them fulfil their potential. Fliss said: “Ben has a wonderful imagination. It is fascinating to see how his characters are drawn and the stories are developed. He is so committed to his art, and he spends all his time in breaks working on the next project.”