April is dedicated to promoting Autism awareness!
What do Autism, Aspergers and Art have in common? Well for one, they all start with the letter “A”. Asperger’s is one of the “syndromes” on the Autism Disorder Spectrum (ADS). Center for Disease Controls reports 1.5 million people in the US are diagnosed with ADS, and one in 68 children.
A sweet disposition, affectionate, pretty and loving child, avid reader, logical, exceptionally bright, an expert in the fields of marine mammals, dinosaurs and Pokémon with sensitivity to sounds, often aloof, who spends free time drawing, describes my granddaughter in grammar school.
Informed by her teacher that my granddaughter; walked in circles, barked like a dog and trotted like a horse was cause to worry. Also reported was that she was seen following an older boy toward the back of school yard. The teacher investigated to learn that the boy had been assigned to escort my granddaughter to her classroom. She was told to follow the boy. Not finding her classroom he continued walking past it. She continued to follow, as told. This surfaced a concern regarding my granddaughter’s safety based on her naiveté.
What does this have to do with Autism Asperger’s and Art? I am getting there.
These, and other clues, were emerging indicating that there was something off kilter. Requests were made to the school for an assessment. My granddaughter grades were exceptional; she was not a problem in class. The requests were denied. After expensive private testing, she was diagnosed at age seven with Asperger’s.
With her Asperger’s diagnosis, I mourned the loss of the unspoken dreams and hopes of an ordinary life, for her. Unable to find clear succinct avenues to provide her a normal ordinary life, I was frustrated. With my daughter at the reigns we rallied and persevered.
As time passed her eccentricities became more apparent. Social queues did not register, as though she were walking through the world where everyone shared a secret but her, leaving her confused and dismayed. I watched as her sunshine dimmed. She had settled into a practice of drawing ambidextrously, frequently during conversation.
v In middle school she was never without a sketch pad and pencils sketching incessantly. I refer to this as her Dragon period; she drew dragons in varied positions with intricately detailed wings. Her classmates sought her out requesting her Dragon art. She was finding social acceptance, and making new friends with other young artists.
High school presented new stresses, social, academic and emotional. The demands of being ordinary, fitting in, were overwhelming. She began shutting down. She had her first “melt downs” crying uncontrollably or quietly scratching herself to the point of drawing blood. To add to her problems she had been banned from using her pads and pencils in the classrooms. An argument was presented and accepted that allowing her to sketch during class as an accommodation to relieve some of her stress. Influenced by teachers, friends and books her artwork advanced.
During her senior year of High School she began attending The Animation Academy. There they focused on animation as a career goal. She passionately immersed herself in all things animation.
Within her life she has: traveled throughout Europe, obtained a purple belt in karate, plays piano and guitar, played soccer, zip lined, snorkels, repelled, swam with dolphins and sting rays, experienced her first crush, kiss and heartbreak, attended two proms, was engaged and broke off an engagement. Her accomplishments and experiences go on.
I had wanted no more for her than to have an ordinary life, but what has manifested is an extraordinary one.
What do Autism, Aspergers and Art have in common? My granddaughter, Caila!
Will she be the next, Bill Gates, Albert Einstein or Thomas Jefferson of the art world? It doesn’t matter.
Today Caila is 19, a college student, studying art with an eye on animation. Her journey has been a challenge, made easier by her love for and involvement with art. For that I am grateful for the gift of art.
**** For information on Los Angeles theatre, tickets to theatre in North Hollywood’s NoHo Arts District, theatre reviews, the NoHo Event Calendar, restaurants, news and local businesses in NoHo, or anything and everything about the NoHo Arts Community, bookmark nohoartsdistrict.com.
DIANNE WILLIAMS – Playwright, performer, singer and activist is the author of The Rise and Fall of My Breasts, making its New York debut in the Spring of 2015.
A native of Massachusetts, Dianne currently lives in Southern California, where she has made substantial contributions and volunteers time and effort on behalf of humanitarian, social service and charitable causes and organizations.
As a writer she has produced; a novel, short stories and written numerous articles. Also a theatre critic Dianne provides insightful reviews for NoHo Arts District.
Dianne was a contract singer with Soul Unlimited. She toured as a solo artist performing with her own band throughout Southern California and Asia.
As an actress she used her multiple talents performing in dramas and musical theatre.
“I am grateful for every day that I am able to be of benefit to mankind, and it is an honour to participate in the creative world.”