Why I’m Proud My Child With Autism Drew This All Over the Walls

My house has been invaded by a swarm of jellyfish.

They are wondrous creatures with big round bodies, three or more giant eyes, a big joker-like smile and at least four legs.

Typical jellyfish reside in the ocean, but these ones live on pretty much any surface — walls, tables, undersides of chairs, even attached to legs of unsuspecting humans. Anywhere you can imagine.

“Where did they come from?” you might wonder. They arrived around two years ago and have never left. They originated in the interesting and creative mind of my daughter Sophia, age 6, who has autism.

Her literal understanding of the concept of drawing a “stick figure” resulted in the creation of these amazing creatures.

child's drawing of jellyfish

A small child’s first attempts at drawing a person usually comprise of a big circle for the head, two small circles for the eyes, a line for the nose and an arc for the mouth. Then, by adding two sticks out the sides and two more sticks poking out the bottom, you give the person arms and legs. Sophia’s first drawing had all the same components, but with a few creative “tweaks.”

She added a few more eyes for a start, giant saucer-like eyes all in a row. The nose was moved from the face, becoming an extra leg, on top of the 3-plus extra legs she’d already added. The smile either became a giant monobrow or hovered just to the side of the figure. They were more like jellyfish than humans, but they were her own creation and therefore awesome in my eyes.

Previously, the only thing Sophia would draw was a series of intense spiral shapes. The teachers at daycare were getting annoyed with the amount of times they had to remove Sophia’s “tag” from undesirable locations like the toilet, playground equipment and other parents’ expensive baby buggies!

Sophia had been so still for such a large part of her toddler years, I was quite proud of her little rebellion. She was like a mini Banksy!

Now that Sophia had graduated onto actual figures, I was so excited to see what she would draw next. I spent a small fortune on art supplies and an easel, and I left them all at her level to encourage her creative side.

One day, I returned from hanging the washing on the line to find Sophia in her room surrounded by jellyfish she’d drawn on all four walls of her room. There were several more jellyfish ogling me with their saucer-like eyes in the lounge. The house was awash with them. I couldn’t get angry at her; she was so proud of her creations, and I was proud of her.

These pictures might look like random scribbles to others, but they are everything to me. In the same way prehistoric cave drawings are to civilization, those googly-eyed jellyfish chronicle a huge advancement in Sophia’s development that no written school or doctors report could ever illustrate.

Two years on and our walls are still awash with jellyfish. I could clean them off the walls, but to me, they’re a reminder of how different my daughter’s mind works compared to others, but is by no means wrong. All the same basic elements are there, just different in composition.

After all, art is subjective — one person’s stick person can be another person’s jellyfish.

child painting on easel

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