A national art competition celebrating the creativity of people with an autistic spectrum condition (ASC) has been launched at a Parliamentary reception.

Create! Art for Autism, which is in its second year, aims to dispel the myth that people with autism cannot be creative and to show that art can significantly improve their quality of life, facilitating experiential-based learning and instilling life-long skills.

It was launched at a Parliamentary reception in London, hosted by Alun Cairns, MP for the Vale of Glamorgan. The competition is open to all young people aged 11-25 years who are formally diagnosed with an ASC including Asperger's syndrome.  They can submit entries in four main categories: 2D art, 3D art, digital art and poetry. There will also be a people's choice award, the winner of which will be voted for by the readers of the Times Educational Supplement. [caption id="attachment_1915" align="alignright" width="350" caption="Jane Asher, president of the National Autistic Society, speaking at the launch of Create! Art for Autism."][/caption]

Finalists will be invited to attend an awards ceremony in Cardiff in July, to celebrate the creativity of all the contestants, where the final winners of each category will be announced.

The finalists' artwork will then be rolled out into a national art tour across four UK cities - Cardiff, Bristol, Birmingham and London.

Darren Jackson, principal of Ludlow Orbis Education and Beechwood College, a specialist residential further education college for people with an ASC, said: "At Beechwood College we have seen how art and creativity can transform the lives of young people who previously struggled to express themselves. "Last year, Create! Art for Autism generated outstanding interest and we were hugely impressed with the level of creativity from all the entries. With this year's competition we aim to reach even further and we hope schools and colleges across Britain will encourage their students to explore their creativity and enter their artwork."

Jane Asher, president of the National Autistic Society, added: "The wealth of talent and imagination of those in the autistic community has long been overlooked and I'm sure that this important competition, now in its second year, will help to bring it the appreciation and recognition it deserves." The closing date for entries is May 18. The finalists will be announced on June 12 and the awards ceremony will take place on July 6.

For more details, visit: www.createartforautism.co.uk