Los Angeles, California – He was in kindergarten at Selma Elementary when the program began in 2011. We’ll call him…Rudolfo. Rudolfo was a child with autism and according to his mother, Ms. Perez, the program helped her to discover activities to do with him that brought them closer. Through a translator, Ms. Perez explained, “He really learned how to express himself as a person, his wants and dreams. It helped him to focus and explain what was important to him. To this day, when we work on art projects together, it calms him and he interacts with me more.”
Julie Wong-Conway, Rudolfo’s teacher at the time, explained that Rudolfo was really uncomfortable with the Secrets of the Heart workshops at the beginning. “Music was noise to him. There was just too much sensory input and he couldn’t deal with it. He would keep crying and have to leave the classroom.” She explained that his aides and the artists kept encouraging him to stick with it, and gradually he started to join in the activities rather than avoid them. “He started to sing, participate in the dances, to do things the other kids were doing, and it became calming. Rudolfo wanted friends and wanted to show love, but until then he didn’t know how to express it. The Secrets of the Heart gave him a way to verbalize through the program. It was very therapeutic.” At the end of the program, Rudolfo asked Bunny Hull, the program’s creator who taught the music workshops in this particular residency, if he could give her a hug. “It brought tears to my eyes,” said Hull, that was huge. So many children with autism don’t like to be touched.” Rudolfo has now been mainstreamed at Selma Elementary. He participates with the other students in his class. How much did “Secrets of the Heart” have to do with that? We may never know exactly how much, but we do know it was a big factor in the changes that Rudolfo demonstrated. We made a difference, and that’s what we set out to do with every program, never knowing which children will benefit most, but knowing they will all benefit greatly. Bravo Rudolfo! You got it!
Famed author and advocate Temple Grandin, who inspired our founder Bunny Hull recently when she spoke at a Montessori Conference, speaks about autism from the inside out. She said she felt arts saved her. “Growing up, I learned to convert abstract ideas into pictures as a way to understand them. I visualized concepts such as peace or honesty with symbolic images. I thought of peace as a dove. I am fortunate in that I am able to build on my library of images and visualize solutions based on those pictures. However, most people with autism lead extremely limited lives, in part because they cannot handle any deviation from their routine. For me, every experience builds on the visual memories I carry from prior experience, and in this way my world continues to grow.” She further said…”the world needs minds like ours.” Yes, it does.
Dream A World Education, provides an avenue through which children, not only children with autism…but all children, can find a way to express who they are and learn more about how they fit in to the world around them.
The teaching artists who were a part of this residency were: Anindo Marshall, Elayn J. Taylor, Diane Hsu and Bunny Hull. Great work team!
Read more about autism from the incredible mind of Temple Grandin.