Monday, December 31, 2007

Autism and Art

I saw this article on the Etsy newsletter “The Storque” about this girl, Siobhan, who has autism. It touched me not only because of my love of painting and art, but because Siobhan reminds me so much of A*, the 5-year-old girl I work with as a 1:1 aide at an area elementary school. When I read the paragraph of this article where the mother is describing Siobahn, it sounded almost exactly like A.

"Siobhan was diagnosed with Autism at the age of 2 and a half . She is relatively non-verbal, and soon after her diagnosis, she began to eat only dry crunchy foods. She has a fit in the bath tub when it’s time for soap and shampoo. She screams if the family dog licks her hand. Basically, my daughter cannot stand to touch or even come in contact with anything wet, slimy or squishy.
We started painting with a brush as a form of “art therapy” to try to get her used to different textures, and possibly to start trying new foods. At first, Siobhan would only use a brush, and any paint that got on her hands had to be wiped off immediately. We went on like this for some time, because she enjoyed the activity. One day, out of the blue, she threw her brush down on the floor & started beautifully blending the colors with her hands. I couldn’t have been any more amazed."

I checked out her website and my favorite painting is this one the mom entitled “Red Meltdown”. Too bad it’s already sold.
And though A may not be at the point Siobahn is, she recently had a similar breakthrough and finally started touching paint with her finger at school without screaming, crying, or having a meltdown.

A little background on my own story of my relationship with a girl with autism:
I started working with A about two years ago while she was 3-years-old and in preschool. First I was a classroom aide, but was with A most of the time because she wasn't "approved" for a one-on-one (1:1) aide yet, but clearly needed the constant direction and supervision a 1:1 aide provides. That summer session she was approved and I was offered the job of officially being her 1:1. I worked with her through the summer, the next school year, and the next summer. At the end of the summer session, I thought it was going to be goodbye, because she was to leave preschool and go off to Kindergarten. But the Lord obviously decided it wasn't time for me to part with this little girl yet...because it was brought to my attention that the elementary school she was going to didn't have an aide lined up for her yet. I knew she wouldn't function in kindergarten without an I went to the school district and applied for the job, letting them know of my previous experience with the same girl who was coming to their school. If she was going to a brand new school, where everything was going to be different (something children with autism have an extra hard time adjusting to) I might as well be there for her to provide a familiar face and some kind of consistancy. Of course I was hired, and have been with her through this school year, and she has been making amazing progress.
And who knows what the Lord has in store for either of these amazing little girls.
* first initial used for privacy reasons

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