By Keri Bowers
With little noses pressed up against the glass, they looked out the window overlooking the school yard. I asked the kids to capture in their minds the first thing they "saw," and to then quietly sit down until everyone was finished. The students ranged from kindergarten to 6th grade. For all six art classes, I repeated the exercise.
"I saw the birds." "I saw the trees." "I saw the fence." "I saw the garbage can." "I saw the grass." On and on it went. After each student shared what they "saw," I shared the old adage "Art is in the eye of the beholder." I told them that what we see individually through the "window of life" will differ from person to person, and that what we "see," is not necessarily what the person next to us sees. This was my way of supporting these young minds to value their own individual work, unique style, and encouraged them to avoid comparing themselves with anybody else.
And so the "window of life" is the analogy to the Human Spectrum. We all share one planet and desire to love and be loved, as equally as we need water, food and shelter. But how we act, react, and play on the field of life is vastly different and unique to each of us – as is the spectrum of autism and the Human Spirit.
Red will never be blue; green will never be yellow; and orange will never be purple – but they share a common thread: they are all colors. Primary and secondary colors are beautiful on their own, and yet when mixed together to make rainbows, hues, and gradations, they have their own unique values. As colors are a spectrum, so too is autism, and so too is the Human Spectrum. All the same and all so totally different.
As the mother of Taylor, now 23, with autism, I have spent two decades of my life working to emerge my son who now lives in independent living in Southern California. I have worked with hundreds of kids and families that they too find emergence in the world – both because of - and sometime in spite of, all the differences between us. This is what my partner, Debra Hosseini and I call "The ART of AUTISM."
The core philosophy of our work in promoting the arts and individuals with autism is that through expression of individual and unique talents, the arts, including visual art, drama, music, dance, comedy, animation, and other forms of creative works, we can support improvement in language, cognition, fine and gross motor skills, social skills, self esteem, work experience, and so much more. Moreover, and equally as rewarding, is the opportunity to change perceptions and educate people everywhere about the possibilities in autism.
The Human Spectrum and the autism spectrum are both quite mysterious. Even with what we do know, in truth, we know so little. So I say dance when you can; sing when your child doesn't understand the words; paint rainbows even when you think all you can draw are stick figures. Get down into your child's world, and and turn the mysteries and challenges of autism into a vibrant pallet of unique joy and expression. The possibilities are endless, and you are the star of that show!
Mother, advocate, filmmaker, and speaker, Keri Bowers' films include Normal People Scare Me, The Sandwich Kid, and ARTS. Keri uses the arts as key tools to develop skills in her camps, social skill groups, workshops, and key note talks. Her workbook, "Mapping Transitions to Your Child's Future" is the guiding force in her work in transitions and futures planning. Keri and business partner, Debra Hosseini, produce live art and theatrical shows – The ART of AUTISM - to showcase artists with autism. Her current film in production,The Spiritual Nature of Special Needs, is due to be completed in April, 2012.