Autism, Art, and Children: The Stories We Draw

Autism, Art, and Children: The Stories We Draw

Autism, Art, and Children: The Stories We Draw

Autism, Art, and Children: The Stories We Draw

Synopsis

The early, spontaneous art of young artists with autism tells a story, a narrative described in the language of visual structure and forms. Not only do these artists inform us of their world in their images, they tell us of our own visual possibilities and meaning-making capacities, too.

Excerpt

Years ago I took an introductory class in cultural anthropology. One particular video from the course still remains fresh in my memory. It featured the Dani people of New Guinea, explored their lifeways, subsistence patterns, and the often hostile interactions with other bands who lived near them by describing their culture from the perspective of an eight- or nine-year-old boy. A seemingly unremarkable incident early in the film struck me as especially significant as the camera panned the lush highland scenery and the gardens of the community. In this sweep of the camera, one sees the boy seated in the tall grass at the far edge of his family's garden, idly drawing in the dirt with a stick as he watches over the pigs feeding in the undergrowth at the edge of the nearby stream. The camera briefly records the marks in the dirt, too, leaving just enough time to decipher the several shapes before it moves on. The scratches appear to form the outline of the all-important Dani garden, the source of most of the people's food, the responsibility of men, the grounding of each family's wealth and social standing. At the side of the image closest to the boy lies a square, certainly the guard tower, and in the center, carefully delineated patches seem to indicate various crops. The entire image is enclosed with a solid line, setting it off from the imagined surrounding gardens and from the uncultivated area near the stream, where the boy himself actually sits with his Stick nd picks . . .

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