It was hard to focus “Dustin” in art class. Not many projects engaged him in the 2nd grade. Usually his attention span only lasted a few minutes until he was on to the next thing. He is on the spectrum, and in a lot of ways, school was a uphill battle for Dustin.
One day, during a texture paper making exercise in art class, something clicked. Suddenly, Dustin was working feverishly on papers using crayon resist. He would make one, scribble something on his papers, paint over it, and quickly move onto the next one. The goal of the lesson was no pressure, just make beautiful papers in the style of Eric Carle.
As his associate and I watched him creating paper after paper, so pleased he was enjoying the lesson, we noticed him carefully writing something in white crayon, but we couldn’t read what it said. As we peered over his shoulder, he quickly took dark black paint and spread it out thickly over his white crayon.
The photo below shows what was revealed when the black paint resisted the black crayon:
On that day, at that moment, Dustin felt like an artist. He was an artist, and he wanted us to know. We both cried like babies, his associate and I, to see him connect with something on a deeper level.
I have kept this paper, and hung it in my classroom for years as a reminder of why I teach. This is why we entered this profession. To hopefully touch the life of every kid. It might take years to realize, but when the magic happens, it leaves you speechless.
Dustin went on to become one of the best artists in the class. His fine motor improved greatly, and by 4th grade this piece of artwork was displayed as the “Artist of the Month”
Dustin is now moving on to Middle School and I had the pleasure of teaching him K-5, and watching that growth will be something I will never forget.
We all have stories like this, and we all aim to help every student be successful in the art room. Consider taking Autism and Art in October and devote some of your professional development to helping a very special population of students who need you now, more than ever, to find their inner artist.
Is there a story you would like to share about a student who has touched your life in this way?