The vibrant colors from Sanjeev’s art work stand out to engulf me in their brightness.
Renuka, Sanjeev’s mother is excited about his foray into painting. The engagement and independence is encouraging too.
They’ve progressed from painting together on one sheet, to Sanjeev painting independently.
Today, Sanjeev does not need anybody around him while he paints.
This wasn’t always the case.
Earlier, Sanjeev would stop an activity if Renuka wasn’t around.
But now, he is so engrossed in painting that it doesn’t matter whether someone is around or not.
From setting up the painting station, to fetching water and colors, to painting and finally cleaning up – he does it all by himself.
The icing on the cake is that Sanjeev shares about his artwork and interprets it for his mother.
For this painting, Renuka asked him what he had painted. He said, “house”. When Renuka nodded, he added, “plane”.
Renuka realized that was how houses looked when airplanes took off or landed!
Isn’t it incredible how he threw light on his perspective?
Sanjeev is vocal and always communicated using words. He reads and writes and attended school up to grade six.
While language developed early, it was need-based. Sanjeev wasn’t able to articulate his thoughts and emotions.
45 minutes of painting a day created the bridge from need-based communication to experience-sharing communication, besides giving Sanjeev an outlet to be his authentic self.
Renuka put in the effort to build a relationship with Sanjeev. She used experience sharing communication while engaging with him. The results are there for us all to see.
Dear Parent, we are under the mistaken belief that more language and speech training will enable children with autism to share their thoughts and feelings.
It may increase their repertoire of words and sentences. But it doesn’t guarantee an increase in emotional sharing and authentic communication.
Sharing comes from awareness and knowledge of self.
Art gave Sanjeev a means to discover and connect with himself.
Every child needs an avenue where he is free to explore and be himself. It could be any form of art, music, sport or anything that the child is interested in.
You and I need this too, isn’t it?
Here’s how you, the parent, can develop for your child, what Renuka developed for Sanjeev.
Watch your child carefully.
Figure out what your child enjoys and expand it for him.
A mother told me she did not enjoy art. So she did not expose her child to it either.
Can I share something? I’m not too artistic either. But both my children are artists.
Don’t let your own limitations come in the way of your child’s empowerment.
Appreciate your child’s creativity, even if it isn’t what you expected.
The initial efforts may not be great. Don’t go by the product. Focus on the fact that your child took the effort to do something. Do not be fixated about how it should be.
Let the child be himself, even if it doesn’t make sense to you.
One of my students makes beautiful paintings. He doesn’t use brushes, but he uses his hands. The results are spectacular.
Who says we need to go by the ‘norm’ or convention?
If they paint, they can develop the sense of self by choosing their own colors, the medium etc.
Sometimes I see Mohit use vibrant color combinations which make me go, “Wow!”
And then he covers his entire painting in black or grey.
My mind screams, “WHY WOULD YOU DO THAT?”
But it’s his creation and not mine. In the end, he does something spectacular with it!
There’s much more to life than academics.
Hobbies and creativity could add so much joy to life.
Move from resistance to acceptance.
This is the most crucial step. Once you create this change in yourself, your child will respond by building a better relation with you.
I’ve worked with Sanjeev and his family since the past 6 months.
Renuka has implemented each of the points mentioned above.
When we started working together, she mentioned, “Sanjeev has a lot of untapped potential.”
Isn’t this how you feel about your child too?
Your child has shown you glimpses of his potential. It’s now up to you to help him achieve that potential.
Here are words of wisdom from a person with autism:
“I have seen a process in the ability to adopt an attitude of autistic empowerment for some persons. It begins with the idea that autism is a thing to be eradicated. This is ignorance. From this emerges the idea that one might be able to accept autistic persons but has an attitude of pity and feels bad that they are different. This is tolerance. The next stage is where one is able to see autism as not a thing but a mode of being of the person. This is awareness. Beyond this one begins to focus merely on challenges but to also see strengths. This is acceptance. One then starts to understand the diversity in means of communication. This is furtherance of acceptance.”
“From this point, once is able to incorporate respect, dignity, presuming intellect, embracing diversity and promoting self advocacy. This is empowerment. So one moves from ignorance to tolerance to awareness to acceptance to empowerment.”
– Dan L. Edmunds, Ed. D
Dear Parent, Where are you on your journey with your child?
Remember, communication is not just about words. There are many avenues through which communication can be strengthened.
That’s the diversity in means of communication that Dr. Edmunds mentions above.
We want our children to be independent and navigate this world competently. The onus is on us to make the leap from acceptance and empowerment.
I would love to hear your thoughts in the comments. If you also have any questions, feel free to leave a comment or get in touch with me.