FACTS ABOUT AUTISMAutism used to be diagnosed in 1 out of 10,000 children. Autism Spectrum disorders are now diagnosed in 1 out of 44 children. Three out of four of those diagnosed are boys. The diagnosis is not a death sentence; people with autism often have great talents and remarkable skills. It’s a matter of helping them discover their talents and giving them an environment in which to thrive. Different therapies can also allow many ASD children to lead mainstream lives. With the severely autistic however, normal can be a matter of perspective.
Everyone is unique. People with autism are, in some ways, “more unique” than others, although they can be unique in different ways. That’s the nature of people, but it’s also the nature of autism.
The art on this web site was drawn by Chris Stiles, who was diagnosed with severe autism in 1972.
Although institutionalization was urged as the best choice of the day for children and their families, Chris' family was willing and able to keep him in the family. He spent a lot of time studying nature; especially branches he picked up with lots and lots of side branches and twigs-he would literally spend HOURS looking at a single branch-twisting, turning and viewing it from different angles. We now know that this was because (as an architect once told me) "Chris has a CAD program in his head." To which I said, "What's a CAD program?" He was studying and processing in his mind the way that shape changes with position. This has been reflected in his art many years later.Social development is one of the most severely disabling aspects of autism. It often manifests very early as the absence of eye contact and imitative behavior. Both of these are crucial to the development of speech. When language does develop it often does not serve the function of communication. It is ritualized or a repetition of phrases that the autistic person has heard someone else use. For example, an autistic child might say “Stay here,” because he is thinking of leaving and expects his parent to say that if he starts to leave.
Other ritualistic behaviors might involve taking shoes and socks off and then putting them back on over and over again, or taking two steps forward and two steps back over and over. It makes something as simple as getting dressed in the morning very time consuming. It can be very difficult to interrupt the ritual.
Although they avoid eye contact, their hearing and memory of what they hear is excellent, sometimes, weeks after a conversation the family has, Chris will repeat a part relevant to the current conversation. In general though he does not seem to be listening or interested in human affairs. Colors and textures are entrancing, while parents and siblings are ignored. Some of his art feels rough, where he has peeled off the first layer of the paper, and drawn beneath it. Sometimes upon finishing a picture he will cover it in layer upon layer of black ink, or he will rip it up, or toss it in the fire. We have learned to pay attention and if he is finished with a picture we will ask if we can have it. Many of his pictures on the website were saved in this manner.
Autistic people do not understand peer pressure. They don’t understand ‘good art’ versus ‘bad art’. They do understand that they like what they draw. When they draw, they are expressing their understanding and what they see.
Although there is no cure for autism yet, those with it can offer a lot to the rest of us. They teach us patience and faith, and as we try to understand, a new dimension is added to our own perceptions.
The pictures on this web site can help you see places and things through the eyes of someone with autism. Some are beautiful places, and some are common things, but all are from a unique perspective.
This website is intended to highlight the autistic condition and demonstrate that these individuals are often accompanied by a special talent and a fresh way of looking at our surroundings. It is important that artists with autism benefit directly and are able to support charities that support scientific research which may benefit future generations with autism.