Children with autism may not always socialize with others, but they can find ways to share what they are feeling.
An art exhibit at the Faces4Autism Conference at Richard Stockton College Thursday gave visitors some insight into their lives.
“Art gives him a place to express what he is feeling,” Cindy Fertsch, of Egg Harbor Township, said of her son, Jamie, 19, who started drawing when he was 10 and now has a book full of brightly colored characters that have evolved as he has grown. Jamie has limited verbal skills, but his newest character, Bobby, has a job, a pet and a girlfriend.
Fertsch suggested and organized the art show to show how students with autism can tell their stories in different media. Atlantic County Special Services art teacher Lisa Confora brought several students to the event, where they worked on their art, often oblivious to the activity around them.
“This is an outlet for them,” Confora said. “It’s a way for them to express creativity, just as it is for all students.”
Isabelle Mosca, of Ventnor, founder of Faces4Autism, said art works can show parents how their child’s brain works. She pointed out a busy, cluttered painting by her son, Kyle, that showed her how the world can seem confusing and chaotic to him. Kyle loves VanGogh, and displayed his own rendition of “Sunflowers” at the show.
“It’s a way for them to tell the stories in their heads,” Mosca said.
Kyle also did the drawings for a 2011 book his twin sister Isabelle and their mom wrote titled “Adventures to Autism Planet” based on a dream Isabelle had about Kyle taking her to “autism planet” where she could see what life is like through his eyes.
Maeve Sweeney, 19, hunched intensely over her drawing pad, headset playing music, as she filled a page with intermingled hearts and faces, then began another. Her mother, Lynda, teaches art therapy at her Artlynks Studio in Egg Harbor City.
Sweeney said parents of autistic children should try to find that special thing that will connect them with their child, whether it’s art, music, the beach or a favorite movie. If they start to understand why the child is fascintaed by something, they can use it to communicate with and understand them.
“You have to find that key element,” she said. She encourages family members to participate in the art therapy process as a way to connect with their child or sibling.
Lisa Bryant of Lower Township recalls a drawing her son Jacyn, 13, did of every family member that had them holding something in each hand that represented them and things they liked. His sister, the princess, had a crown and scepter, and his late father had a golf club and halo.
“It really is a way for them to express themselves,” she said.
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