Parent’s Statement: Kristen Efstathiu

It has been said that it is nearly impossible to quantify the experience of making art.  I disagree.  With my own eyes I have seen art completely transform my autistic son.

Autism is a disorder of neural development characterized by impaired social interaction and communication and by restricted and repetitive behavior. One of the characteristics of autism is imagination deficit. Communicating, socializing, and using one’s imagination can be very challenging.

When Connor started art classes with Kathryn at age nine, his imaginative play consisted of fixating on ceiling fans.  He would think about them, talk about them, and in art class he would want to draw only them.  Kathryn encouraged his beautiful drawings of fans.  She provided a concrete visual format for him to express himself.  Connor knew that his art teacher genuinely understood him and he felt empower and proud to draw his fans in art class.

After building communication and trust, she slowly did exercises to develop his abstract thinking skills and flexibility, using art as the guide.  He was encouraged to express his very own creativity.  One day, Connor came into art class frustrated with his personal look and style.  For part of that lesson, Kathryn coached him on the art of styling and sculpting his hair. He left art class with the biggest smile on his face and a new, stylish look!  That was the beginning of his interest in self-expression through fashion. This special communication, friendship, and trust gradually brought about a significant therapeutic change in Connor.  Through art, Connor developed a sense of accomplishment and he understood his own very powerful capacity for creative thinking.

Connor is now twelve and drawing cartoon characters for a film he is creating. They are detailed, funny, colorful, and expressive. In his free time, he no longer fixates on fans.  He does not want to watch TV.  He does not want to play video games.  He goes straight to his art drawer to grab his white card stock, colorful pens, and scissors and he creates art. This change, this new choice to spend his time making art that build his self-awareness, self-expression, and self-esteem, is what makes art quantifiable for Connor.  Connor now has a beautiful way of communicating his thoughts and feelings. He went from a boy who would not pick up a paint brush to one who calls himself an artist!

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