Susan's Blog

Monday, July 19, 2010

A Window to a Soul

Over the years, people have suggested art therapy as a possible way to get Nat to express himself.  Back then we were always looking for therapies that would get at Nat and help him.  We did years of music therapy (in addition to years of speech, language, sensory integration, and behavioral therapy.  We tried a little Floortime and we looked into auditory integrated training, as well as perhaps a week of The Diet.   Blah blah blah try try try, fail fail fail) but we never did try art therapy.  I hated when people suggested it to me the same way I hated it when people say that “autistic people respond well to visuals.”  It seemed to be one of those sweeping generalizations that had no bearing on who Nat was. I still get that feeling, like a balloon losing air, when people suggest things I should try for Nat.

Nat did not like art.  We’d put crayons in front of him and he’d scribble, filling every white space on the page with the one color he’d chosen.  To me, this felt hopeless, rote.  It did not seem like he was expressing himself, or if he was, what was he saying?  It was just painful for me at the time.  I guess this is because I was judging him by how I would do things:  if I had crayons, I’d draw something. A woman in a ballgown, a garden, an undersea scene.  I suppose I could have said that Nat was more abstract, but it felt like a thin assumption.  His scribbling was listless, phoned in.  I know when he likes something and when he doesn’t.  It just felt like art, for Nat, was not an avenue to pursue.

Today I drove out to Nat’s school with a pile of blue-colored tulle I’d bought at JoAnn Fabrics.  (I love JoAnn Fabrics because any craft project you want to do, they got aisles and aisles of the raw materials.  Walls and rows of every color, every texture.  Beads, baubles, brushes, paints, feathers, glitter.  It makes a gaudy girl like me want to sing.  Or sew.)

The tulle was for decorating the school gym for the prom.  They are having another prom, just like last year, for the upper school.  This year the theme is “Under the Sea.”  I immediately had an entire vision of what they should do:  swaths and swags of tulle, in blue, green, purple, waving from one end of the gym ceiling to the other, like the top of the ocean.  Tiny lights (plankton?  starfish?) to further delight.  I was laying the tulle out along the floor of the gym with the school’s Family Services person, Jessica, who also seems to be the go-to girl for just about everything there.  Jessica suggested I come with her to the art room to see some of the decorations the students have been working on.

The art room was a beautiful rainbow of sea-themed clutter:  seahorses standing up on their own somehow; a big stingray spread out on the table between Crystal, the art teacher, and Norah, a mom.  Crystal pointed me to Nat’s work — his class had also painted sea creatures on the school window. As I turned to look, I felt that same old soul deflation beginning.  But there, in very recognizable form, were two stingrays fluttering through a thickly painted ocean of sea life.  “He did it completely on his own,” Crystal said.  “He copied this picture,” and she handed me a picture of rays.  “I didn’t know he could paint,” I said — shouted, really, with my voice cracking and tears pushing behind my eyes — while they all looked at me sympathetically.  Norah, the other mom, said, “Yeah, they never show you at home what they can do.”

Just when you think God had closed the door on something, He opens up a window.


My first word upon seeing that picture was “holy’

I’ll not write the next.

They amaze us all the time, don’t they?

— added by Ed P. on Monday, July 19, 2010 at 8:45 pm

So it is with faith and with parenting…God always opens a window. Sometimes we see it, sometimes we’re so stuck on the door not opening that we miss it. That’s a lovely painting; I’d venture to guess there’s much to Nat that he has yet to reveal to you. 🙂

— added by Niksmom on Monday, July 19, 2010 at 8:49 pm

susan –

though you likely don’t know it, it was you who taught me that an activity that doesn’t work now – well – doesn’t work NOW. you wrote a post a long time ago telling us to try again. and again. that the time might – and likely would- come.

i have seen it time and again with my daughter – the skills that emerge in time can be mind-blowing. the developmental stages that seemed skipped right over that show up in full bloom when our kids are ready.

this is a beautiful reminder that we never know what our kids can do – until they’re ready to show us.

nat is a wonder and i can’t wait to see what comes next.

thank you for sharing.

— added by jess on Monday, July 19, 2010 at 9:13 pm

Well, Ed, I think ‘holy’ all by itself fits.

— added by Barbara on Monday, July 19, 2010 at 9:25 pm

I have to constantly remind myself that delays are just that – DELAYS. It doesn’t mean “never”…lovely, lovely post. Thank you.

— added by drama mama on Monday, July 19, 2010 at 11:13 pm

omg. every word in this post…EVERY WORD ~ feels like you wrung me out like a wash cloth or something. Thank you so much. I appreciate your words like you appreciate the rows and rows of possibilities at Jo Ann’s 🙂

— added by Timmy's Mom on Tuesday, July 20, 2010 at 5:11 am

Lovely and awesome and so very Nat. Thank you.

— added by Penny on Tuesday, July 20, 2010 at 7:01 am

Thank you, in again one more lovely piece, to always remember to try, try, try again.

— added by kim mccafferty on Tuesday, July 20, 2010 at 9:27 am

What a sweet, sweet picture.

— added by pixiemama on Tuesday, July 20, 2010 at 10:38 am

I know exactly how you must have felt seeing Nat’s beautiful picture. xoxo

— added by kal on Tuesday, July 20, 2010 at 7:15 pm

I love hearing these stories from you. Wow, the wonder, the absolute wonder that is evident in your voice. Our kids can still surprise us after all those years? Fabulous.

— added by Brenda on Tuesday, July 20, 2010 at 8:01 pm

That is so wonderful. It just made my morning. I love how our boys can keep surprising us.

— added by Alice on Wednesday, July 21, 2010 at 11:57 am

Susan, I have goosebumps reading this…I also have tears welling up…I am so very happy for you to be enjoying another unexpected “high” courtesy of your beautiful, wise, and ever-so-mysterious son, Nat.

— added by Candy on Saturday, July 24, 2010 at 11:19 am

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