Power of One: Art offers confidence to young people with autism
Published Sunday, August 29, 2010 2:51PM EDT
Creating art began as a hobby for Ari and his mother Cheryl Colton, but it's become not only a means of self-expression for the autistic boy, but now also has the makings of a non-profit organization.
By offering workshops for teenagers and young adults diagnosed with autism, Ari-Art has become a place where artists with autism work on directed and independent projects in a variety of disciplines from jewellery making, to photography, to creating decorative bowls and spoons.
The impetus behind Ari-Art was simple; Colton was seeking to keep her 21-year-old son stimulated.
"I just figured it was a great way to keep him busy when he comes home from school because otherwise he would just stim," said Colton, referring to the repetitive body movement that is common in some forms of autism.
The young man latched on to beading, and the two began to create together.
"I noticed that he was focused when he was beading with me," said Colton.
Recognizing the opportunity to help other young autistic people, Colton, Ross White and Pat Williams, all experienced in dealing with people with special needs, began the space in Williams's home allowing others to design, complete and market their finished work.
The art project offers them real-life skills and lasting relationships, said Williams.
"This gives them a means to free their thoughts and their expression and creativity," she explained.
The organization sells wares at bazaars, but has applied to become a non-profit organization in hopes of expanding to include a store and a larger workshop.
"(We want) to have a full-time therapeutic workshop for guys like this who fall through the cracks," said Colton.
Social by nature, Colton said Ari and his friends would thrive on speaking with their customers.
"I want him in a place where people can come and buy their stuff and talk to them. They're very social guys," she said.
Colton said the plans to expand aren't about profits, but rather about gaining pride, and helping Ari and others like him succeed.
"I had to just try and make him as capable and as happy and functional as possible, so it's a work in progress," she said.
To view a gallery of creations by Ari-Art, click here.