How a Boy With Autism Launched His Own Nonprofit With the Help of Dragons

Via Lisa Stagliano/Santino’s Dragon Drawings

Santino Stagliano has loved drawing dragons from the age of 3 — two years before his autism diagnosis.

He didn’t speak in full sentences until he was 4 and a half years old, but he knew how to express his emotions through art.

“The reason he likes dragons is because they’re the only things that can breathe fire and fly,” his mom, Lisa Stagliano, told The Mighty. “They’re different, like him.”

Santino, now 10, draws dragons based on his emotions and events. Sad dragons may have tears in their eyes; red dragons depict anger. And the first time he said “I love you” was when he gave his mom a drawing of a mother and baby dragon.

Via Lisa Stagliano/Facebook

This past April, when his mom posted a photo of one of his t-shirt designs to her Facebook page, in just one night, nine people requested to buy one.

Via Lisa Stagliano/Facebook

The Stagliano family has since started a nonprofit and website called “Santino’s Dragon Drawings” to sell Santino’s shirts online.

drawing 3
Via Lisa Stagliano/Santino’s Dragon Drawings

“It’s like a light switch went off in my son’s head,” Lisa Stagliano said. “We’ve seen nothing but miracles since this happened.”

Via Lisa Stagliano/Santino’s Dragon Drawings

So far, Santino has hand drawn designs for more than 650 shirts. He donates half of his sales to The Center for Autism.

Check out some more of Stagliano’s drawings below and visit his Facebook page for more information.

Via Lisa Stagliano/Santino’s Dragon Drawings
Via Lisa Stagliano/Santino’s Dragon Drawings
Via Lisa Stagliano/Santino’s Dragon Drawings
Via Lisa Stagliano/Santino’s Dragon Drawings

Find this story helpful? Share it with someone you care about.

Related to Autism Spectrum Disorder

The First Time My Son With Autism Got a Birthday Invite I Didn't Have to Decline

Dear (Super Cool) Mom, You don’t know me and I don’t know you, but my son, Timothy, sometimes sits beside your son at school. Timothy has severe autism spectrum disorder. He is also a 7-year-old little boy who loves and plays with all of his heart. He needs a lot of extra help at school [...]

My Greatest Fear as an Autism Parent, and the 2 Words That Give Me Comfort

This is blog I’ve dreaded writing… the one I’ve avoided for a while. Maybe it’s because I’m scared of the reaction of other parents. Ever since I started blogging, I’ve opened myself up for the possibility of criticism. But I told myself from the beginning that this is our story, our journey. And that as [...]

When My Daughter With Autism Sensed a Stranger Needed a Hug

I don’t like doctors’ waiting rooms. They’re like silent torture chambers for an anxious mother of a 6-year-old, who can change from a little sweetheart to a little banshee at any second, screaming the roof off and attracting looks of confusion, pity and annoyance. As we waited for the doctor, Sophia jumped out of her [...]
family posing for pictures with bride and groom

The Comment I Dread Hearing as a Parent of Someone With Autism

If you’re a parent of a child with autism, you might have had this said to you in many contexts and on many occasions: “Normal kids do that.” You may feel yourself tensing up and may have to work to keep calm. People say this for many reasons, and often think it’s a comfort. But [...]