Why Creating Artwork Helps Me as a Person on the Autism Spectrum


Over the years, I would get stopped on campus (in high school, college and now law school) when I would sit down somewhere with my sketchbook, pencils or in some cases, colored pencils and other tools of the art trade. I wasn’t in art school, so why was I keeping busy with all of these tools while my peers weren’t? I was always a creative-type kid, and it certainly followed me to adulthood.

Individuals on the autism spectrum are talented, beautiful people with so much to offer the world around us. We’re gifted in art, music, drama, writing and so much more or a mixture of these blessings. A lot of people think being gifted in art is something I was taught or forced to like somewhere down the line, but I truly know it’s one of the many gifts I’ve received from being on the autism spectrum. Art has been one of the biggest parts of my life for as long as I could remember — my mom used to do crafts and stuff with me when I was very small, and when I was kindly asked to leave my preschool, one of the main reasons was that I scribbled with the black crayons instead of coloring in the lines, which could show you where my creativity began!

So why do I draw, paint and color? It relaxes me. It’s really that simple. It gives me the opportunity to leave the real world behind. For those of you who are in school, graduated from high school or college, or have a child in school, you should know that it’s stressful — and even more so when you have an autism spectrum disorder. I could go to anywhere quiet, put some music on that I like, sit down to draw and enter my own world, and try to make it a reality. I remember days when I was younger I’d get so absorbed in my artwork, I’d forget when it was time to eat or to respond to my mom calling for me from across the house.

Holding a pencil and making something from scratch appealed to me much more than the drama of “girl world” and most of what kind of hidden social rules school had to offer, so I relaxed myself, felt good about myself and kept on making art, and in a sense, creating my own world as well. My own world has also invited others into it, whether it be through conversation, making friends and allowing me to discover my passions.

I go out of my way to make my art, “my art.” My style is my own. It’s the perfect mixture of anime meets pop art. I’m influenced heavily by anime (but don’t watch it or read manga very much anymore), and I’m also influenced by visual pop art such as the work of Peter Max, Romero Britto and countless others. I love how anime and pop art share a big theme of happiness, and that’s what my art is — happy.

When I began writing and showing my work to the world, I realized as much as I was creating for me, I was creating to make others happy. I use plenty of colors, and colors make me happy and I try to use as many as possible without a picture looking like a hot mess because I don’t want to leave any of them out. I’ve received feedback from people all over the world telling me how my work spoke to their kids on the spectrum, and I was shocked and glad how much of an impact I could have. Now I donate a lot of my work to charities such as the Dan Marino Foundation, MAAP Services, University of Miami’s Center for Autism and Related Disabilities (UM-CARD), the Unicorn Children’s Foundation and numerous others. The charities and organizations I work with do this really cool thing where they auction or sell my paintings or prints at their galas and other events, raise money for the cause, and someone gets to have a new piece of art in their home or business. It’s a win-win for everyone: I love creating, a foundation doing great things gets money and someone gets new décor.

Let me make it clear that I have no formal training in the arts. The only training I ever had is a lot of encouragement from family to keep doing what I’m doing because I loved it. That’s one of the most important things I learned about the fabulous talents of kids on the spectrum — as a parent, it’s your job to encourage your kids to explore their interests and talents because you never know what you’ll uncover. Without the support I have
received and the motivation from my family to keep going, I don’t know if I would still be drawing, painting and trying to learn more techniques and creative things. It’s so important to be positive, and expose your kids to the many things out there and know that your kid(s) probably have all sorts of amazing gifts and talents that are just waiting to be explored and encouraged!

I hope you have a better understanding of why I personally love being a visual artist. Art has also taught me how at the end of the day, it’s for everyone, not just the artist and not just the viewer. Art creates a conversation, and my art creates a difference because someone feels happier than they were before, I feel less stressed while creating, and others throughout the nation are getting the services they need because I helped fundraise to make those things possible. It is a beautiful, positive thing to be able to do what you love and make a difference in the world around you. So go out there, explore your gifts, and if you have the ability to, use them to help make our world more awesome!

I also hope you are feeling more inspired than before, and are doing what you love, having the courage to explore your talents.

Haley creating art
Haley creating art
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