Trang Nguyen, Director of Community Gatepath’s Autism Social Connection
People with Autism Spectrum Disorder often have difficulty in communicating effectively and in focusing, and can experience anxiety when over-stimulated. However, many people with autism also have a specific interests and passions and are very creative in their own right. They simply see and do things differently than their typically developing peers. Creative expression through the arts can be very fulfilling and even therapeutic for an individual on the Autism Spectrum. Art therapy provides a visual tool for communication, a window to the imagination, and motivation to make connections.
Emma, a teen with high-functioning autism, found an outlet for her creativity at Community Gatepath’s Autism Social Connection’s film group. The group provides students the opportunity to express their ideas, feelings and personalities while they learn to work together, communicate, and have fun creating film projects. Emma joined the group because it sounded interesting and her school didn’t have a film group.
Before she joined the film group, Emma’s view about her autism was that, “It has no benefits for me. If I didn’t have it, I’d probably have millions of friends because I wouldn’t be close lipped.” Since joining Autism Social Connection (ASC) in 2012, Emma’s confidence has sky rocketed and she is now embracing her differences. She has worked on many film projects, and even designs her own costumes and applies theater make-up. Most importantly, she has made many friends. She goes on group outings and has really connected in meaningful ways with her friends. As a result of Emma’s participation in ASC groups, she found the confidence to speak on panels about autism and her experiences growing up. Most recently Emma spoke to 5th graders at an elementary school during their Ability Awareness week, where she shared what it is like having autism and how it affected her in school. She shared how she was teased and how she has learned to cope with it better.
Emma’s outlook on her future is bright. She admits she has a hard time narrowing down what she wants to do when she grows up. “I want to be a story writer for video games, a costume or set designer or possibly a paranormal investigator,” Emma said. All of which require a lot of imagination and creativity.
ASC groups meet each week and serve children, teens and adults ages eight and up. Participants meet in a casual, low-key environment, encouraging conversation and camaraderie, while giving young people hands-on experience with cameras, sound equipment, computer programs, and other aspects of visual media. To learn more about these classes, please visit: http://www.gatepath.org/Autism-Social-Connection.
Community Gatepath is a nonprofi that provides inclusive programs for people with special needs, to promote greater independence and empowerment for individuals with special needs.