When you go to the website for The Art of Autism, you’re greeted with a message that makes it clear what the project’s agenda is: “2015 is Autism Acceptance Year.”
For any of you who read our coverage of Autism Awareness month or feel that every day should be Autism Awareness Day, this statement highlights a shared sentiment amongst many individuals with autism, their family members, experts, and advocates in the community: That raising awareness about autism is a daily duty, not something to be reserved for one day or one month a year.
After all, autism is a condition and a word that is generally mired in misconceptions, with young people with autism far more likely to be misunderstood and bullied. And this misunderstanding can follow an individual with autism throughout his or her life, from home life to work.
While there are numerous campaigns and organizations in place that dedicate themselves to raising awareness about autism, last month, The Art of Autism ended an extraordinary and one-of-a-kind online art series entitled Autism Unveiled. The series is a collection of visual art and experiences from people with autism, ranging from around the world, that seeks to shine a light on the participants’ inner emotions, thoughts, and capabilities, creating a significantly different narrative than the one that is generally accepted in popular culture.
As Debra Muzikar, the co-founder of Art of Autism, so succinctly put it, “The most important thing is that we all have diverse experiences. We need to appreciate others for who they are as human beings.”
And that is exactly what the series seeks to accomplish, dispelling such long-standing myths such as autism makes it impossible for kids to achieve their potential. However, many of the artists involved with the series, and people in general, see autism as being a special part of who they are.
“The world would be drab if we were all the same,” writes Jeremy Sicile-Kira, who also has synesthesia, a condition where senses mix, like seeing colors while listening to music, because of differences in brain wiring. Research shows that people with autism are almost three times more likely to have synesthesia.
“Really, if it were not for my autism, I would not see the beautiful colors that I see everywhere, even in dust,” he writes.
Another myth that the series seeks to dispel is that being on the autism spectrum carries with it no benefits. Research shows that many people with autism have unique abilities, whether it’s incredible pattern recognition or attention to detail, compared to the general population.
Nik Sebastian is an artist living in Pennsylvania who specializes in faces. “Details like laugh lines, moles, and supposed imperfections … are more beautiful to me by far than any airbrushed Hollywood star,” he writes. “I feel that autism is what allows me to see minor details that most others don’t seem to notice.”
And there are so many other myths that each artist seeks to destroy through their original artwork. So if you’re looking for an online exhibition to show your friends or family of just what people with autism can achieve or an inspirational piece for your children or students, the Art of Autism does not disappoint.