Not one-dimensional: Autistic and Artistic

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Writer, Contributor – Mavis Chan

I once encountered a memorable moment watching a young adult with autism delicately playing the piano during a visit to my former piano instructor in New York City. When I walked into the music studio, I saw a young man sat right in front of the piano, playing a beautiful piece while looking very focused and undistracted. I could tell he was totally absorbed by what he was doing. I watched standing right behind for a few seconds, turned to my piano instructor and asked, “He’s your student?”

“Yes, Mavis!” she smiled and answered, “He’s 16 years old. Isn’t he amazing!?”

“Oh absolutely…absolutely amazing!” I said in awe and responded, “I wish I can play like he does.”

When he’s done playing his music, he looked up at both of us with a shy smile, and we got introduced. Then he handed me a paper ring from his pocket and uttered in a bashful manner, “Can you marry me?”

I heard and immediately burst into laughs. Then I gently took the paper ring from his fingers. How unexpected, and what an extremely cute, lovely moment I thought in my head. But, more interestingly, if you ever wonder how gifted and talented individuals with autism can be, you’re with me on this!

Some time ago, I read an article by Ellen Nothohm, who is an award-winning author and mother of sons with ADHD and autism. Ellen wrote about the “Ten things every child with autism wishes you to know.” Coming from a mother with firsthand experience raising children with autism, her article gave a clear picture of what it’s like to be an individual with autism. Not merely had I learned how sensitive they can be with stimuli such as sounds and lights in their surroundings, they also often have trouble conveying their own feelings in words. They are also people who tend to be very visually oriented, which means they need to be shown what to do from all kinds of visual supports they can get from others. To make human connections, sometimes, we don’t need words.

Keep in mind that people with autism may be much more focused on their own private world and are unaware of what they are missing out on. In fact, cognitive abilities can develop unevenly in people with ASD of those 10 percent display some remarkable skills usually in mathematical, memory, or artistic abilities. While each individual with autism is unique, some may have average to above average intellectual abilities. Rather than viewing them as people with disabilities, why not view them as a unique bunch of individuals with distinct abilities?

One of my favorite inspirational speakers, Nick Vujicic, author of “Life Without Limits”, has said the following: “For every disability, there is an ability.” Nick encouraged readers by pointing out that those with disabilities are blessed with more than enough abilities to rise above any attempt to restrict them from exploring and developing their gifts.

That’s right! We are all wonderfully made by God. I’m thankful to have known my friend, Pheobe Ho, Executive Director at Center For All Abilities (CAA), who speaks her mission from a humanistic approach serving individuals with special needs and other development disabilities. Through creative, educational, social and spiritual enrichment, Phoebe also envisions making a connection through visual arts with autistic children and young adults. One of the programs that run within the non-profit organization uses creative art and music therapy to help individuals recognize their value by realizing their unique potentials. It is so special to see how dedicated and proud they can be in their own creations.

“Artism” is just a term to describe authentic interest and unlimited artistic capabilities of people with autism. We know some of their multi-dimensional work will bring a lot of inspiration to others, and through this mission, we look forward to unlocking more opportunities for these unique individuals with love, support and pride!

To learn more about CAA and find out how you can support, check out the www.allabilities.org.

Email info@allabilities.org if you would like to get involved as a mentor, event volunteer, and more.