Both Mark and I have artistic talents. For Mark it’s singing, and some drawing and some photography (though, he’s never pursued those); for me it’s writing, obviously. Our boys, all fours of them, have artistic talents as well. Brandon, Willy, Alex and Ben all draw. They do it for fun, but each has enough talent that they all could pursue it as a hobby or a vocation. They all love music, too, though Brandon is the only one who wants to take that interest beyond personal pleasure, at least so far. Willy has developed an interest in cinematography, though he doesn’t know the word. He likes to watch and make home-made videos, particularly a kind of video called “Let’s Play” on YouTube. Alex is mostly interested in drawing/coloring variations on Veggie Tales themes. Ben’s interests include drawing a variety of images he picks up, mostly from movies or videos. He’s even getting to the point where he can tell me a little about what he’s drawing.
Art as Communication
Right now, the younger boys (including Willy) mostly use their art as means of entertainment and expression, but art is also a form of communication. They communicate their interests and their thoughts with what they draw. Alex shows his peculiar vision, distorting, instead of recreating, some of the images within the pictures he colors, which I find fascinating, though I have no idea how to interpret these works. Willy draws what interests him, what he’s fixated on. For example, when Willy was obsessed with crying, he drew a lot of his characters with big crocodile tears. Now, he’s drawing them in grids, showing their ranking—competition is a big focus for him now. He wants to know where people stand. Ben’s drawings vary from the various Dreamworks logos he’s seen to scenes from video segments he likes. He doesn’t communicate what he wants so much as what he has watched; whereas most of Alex’s scenes are created from memory, and if you put the associated video on, he then tunes into the video, at least for a while, instead of stimming over the opening sequence.
As their skill with artwork advances, I expect they’ll be able to communicate more complex thoughts and emotions (I’m seeing some of that already). Unfortunately, visual art isn’t my medium, so I’m a bit worried that my inability to interpret or understand their work is going to be a stumbling block for us. Perhaps it already is.
Art as Vocation
One of my hopes is that, when the boys come of age, they’ll be able to pursue careers that interest them, that utilize their skills and talents—careers that they can be successful in despite their disabilities. It is my belief that everyone should have the right (or perhaps the privilege) of trying, though not everyone will succeed. My confidence in this regard is strongest with Willy, who (currently) is the least limited by his disabilities. Because Willy is recognized by influential members of society (currently consisting of teachers and other school staff) as being capable, his disabilities are not used to limit his potential. He’s “allowed” to pursue his interests. Whereas Alex is limited by his disabilities. Despite my best efforts, Alex’s capabilities tend to go unrecognized by those influential members of society; his future is seen as being limited by the services and supports that are provided to people with his disabilities.
I look to a future in which my boys—all four of them—can pursue their art as a vocation, as a career. I look to a future in which Alex, especially Alex, is provided the services and supports he needs to pursue the career he wants for himself, not limited to the work tract that is expected and available to someone with his disabilities. I’m still not sure how to bring that future to fruition, but I’m determined to make it possible.
The Art of Autism
And that’s one reason why, when I recently came across The Art of Autism via LinkedIn, I took an interest in the work they’re doing. I’m already a fan of The Autism Acceptance Project. I know it’s possible, and I know I’m not the only one who sees potential, instead of limitations.