Andrew, my son, diagnosed with Autism at age three is primarily non-verbal, requests only what he wants. We have to guess his needs, his pain, his frustration, his joy and his thoughts. He is strong, he is happy and very playful. In fact, his joy and laugh are contagious. Andrew’s joy defines him.
Last summer, upon the end of the school year, I was asked to come by to pick up school work. I obliged, thinking I’d have to sort through charts, sheets of this and that, but to my great surprise the mound that awaited me was packed with wooden canvases of paintings. Andrew’s Art Therapist, Ashley, looked at me and nodded her head and told me that Andrew loves Art just as much as I do and that he is showing a great affinity for painting and juxtaposing colours together in a complementary manner.
I couldn’t believe my eyes. Now I understood why he would come home covered in paint up to his elbows, and patches of paint spots and smears over his clothes. Not that that ever bothered me, I knew he wouldn’t wear an artist’s smock. I figured he loved the texture, feel and smell of the paint and the way it would peel off when dry. I got that, so on I went dissolving the paint on his clothes without question or frustration. What I didn’t know was what he was producing during Art Therapy, what masterpieces and explosions of expression would find their way into the trunk of my car. The ironic thing here is that he has trouble identifying his colours! Go figure!
When home, I couldn’t stop talking to Andrew about my excitement about his paintings. Andrew listened. I began to go through his artwork and prop the canvases up against the wall and he would come around and tell me, “no, like this”. I hadn’t found the right position and he had to correct it. If I placed certain paintings apart, he would come in and re-arrange them to be positioned together. I later learned from his therapist that many paintings were executed simultaneously. What a guy! My Andrew. My Andrew who would quietly watch me photographing his paintings and who would come over and quietly turn them this way and that way until they were positioned that way in which he painted them.
I was floored. Andrew was in my world. Another means by which to reach him had just surfaced and I was elated.
So then I started a Facebook Page called Andrew’s Art. Hundreds of people clicked ‘like’, many folks asked and are continuing to ask if any pieces are for sale. While I see some future potential for Andrew to make a bit of money and possibly become self-sufficient, right now, I don’t have the heart to part with any pieces.
They tell a story. They tell me what his thoughts are. They tell me what he is feeling. How can I let them go? I cannot.
Most importantly, Andrew takes mental inventory and knows the position and filing of each and every piece. What would happen if I took one away? I cannot do that to Andrew.
I want to treasure this new form of self-expression from my son because it allows me to see into his soul for the first time in my life.
Here is the first glimpse I had into my son Andrew’s thoughts.
Unbelievable pairing of colours. Look at the deep blues, mixed with red to create that beautiful shade of purple. The deep blues mixed with white. And how on earth did he decide on that oh so beautiful splash of brown?