Autism, Art Therapy and April Awareness…
Once a week I hold art therapy sessions for small groups of children with varying degrees of autism. One of these beautiful children is a 9 year old boy called Freddy (alias). Freddy is on the higher end of the spectrum with minimal verbal communication. He has been coming to the sessions for two years now and there was a point where I didn’t think the sessions were benefiting him in any way as most of the time, he fluctuated between walking energetically around the room making loud sounds, to rolling around on the floor gnawing on the side of his hand. It was almost impossible to get him to sit down and concentrate on any activity for even a few minutes.
However, about 4 months ago, we had an exciting break through! The activity for the day was painting and I managed to get Freddy seated. He picked up a sponge from the table and dipped it in the paint, proceeding to wipe it over the paper. Half an hour later, he had not only stayed seated, but had completed a number of paintings exploring different shaped sponges, folding and opening the paper and connecting with the colour. He seemed to enjoy tasting it too! (don’t worry, they were non toxic paints). The next week when Freddy walked in the art room, he went straight to the cupboard and picked out the orange paint bottle, letting me know that he wanted to paint!
Working with these children for the past few years and responding to parents who would like their children to ‘fit’ into societies ‘norm’, has given me the opportunity to reflect and ask the question “what exactly is normal?”. With increasing numbers of children presenting on the autistic spectrum worldwide, it makes me wonder what the ‘bigger’ picture is. Of course there are all the possible reasons autism is on the increase, such as chemicals, radiation from electronics, pollution, poor nutrition, vaccines etc, but what if there is something larger at play in this game of life? Now I know I may be opening a can of worms with such an outrageous supposition, but suppose for just a minute, that these ‘abnormal’ children are here to teach us. What could they possibly teach us, you might ask? Please allow me to make a few suggestions….. How about giving us the opportunity to learn how to be in the present moment and connect profoundly with another human being? In this world of ever advancing technology, cyber space is at the forefront of how we are communicating with each other. (I have even heard of family members sending each other text messages when they are in the next room!)
When circumstances dictate non verbal communication, we have the chance to interact from our heart instead of our head and when we come from this place, there is no room for judgment or fear, just a willingness to understand and accept the person in front of you as you attempt to see the world from their eyes. There is magic and love in this place, as I have learnt these past few years. Working with these intriguing children is also teaching me to look outside the box, to find different ways to approach a problem, to see things from another perspective. I am so grateful for this reminder every time it happens during our sessions, as they continue to call me to my limitless potential. We can get so caught up in “our way is the right way or the only way”, that we become limited beings rather than limitless. Anything is possible when there are no limits. Why wouldn’t we want this?
And, if in fact the combination of chemicals, vaccines, poor diet etc is responsible for producing children on the spectrum, then they are offering us a wakeup call to make drastic changes to the way we are living and what we are doing to the planet and our bodies.
Every single human being on this planet is unique. The gifts and talents that each of us bring are also unique. Wouldn’t it be wonderful to stop boxing and labelling our children (and ourselves) and start to honour and celebrate all of our unique qualities?
April is Autism Awareness Month so there is a wonderful opportunity for each of us to look for the beauty, the mystery, the fun, the joy, the wisdom in these amazing children.
Sherree Maniks is a Transpersonal Art Therapist with a special interest in children on the spectrum. She is available for individual Art Therapy sessions at Harbord Homeopathy Clinic in Brookvale Sydney as well as running school holiday art workshops at The Art Garden in Avalon for children 8 years plus. After school group art sessions are also available M) 0421 623 623