Colin Abbott is a seven year old second grader at Hopewell Elementary who is making a big impression with his artistic abilities. So much so, that the Department of Education in Washington D.C now has one of his pieces, created last spring, on display in an exhibition hall. His piece is a multi-colored, textured representation of his home that he named, ‘My Neighborhood…My Community.’ His art teacher and Colin took about two months to complete the piece, which was then submitted to the Kennedy Center’s VSA (Very Special Arts) International Art Program for Children with Disabilities. Oh, did we mention that he’s autistic and blind?
Two years ago, Colin was unable to tolerate the touch and feel of paint or glue. Now, he has learned to work with these and other textures that he would have previously been uncomfortable with. Colin’s art class, which meets once or twice a week, is where he lets his artistic expression flow–with the help of the theme song from Super Mario Bros, to name one of his favorites. “I go fast when the music goes fast and slow when the music goes slow,” Colin explains.
His art teacher, Kala Koehler has had to experiment with different teaching techniques in order to help him. “When we started painting, I wanted him to know that when he was adding a medium onto the canvas that he could relate those mediums to his emotions. If he wants to paint an exciting color, we use red. He knows how that feels,” says Koehler, who was inspired by Dr. Seuss’s “My Many Colored Days,” which connects colors to specific moods. “In art, he will feel everything, and he’ll smell it, and if he doesn’t like it, he’s not having it. He can’t make eye contact with you to non-verbally say ‘we’re going to talk now,’ so he has to make sure that you’re paying attention.
Kids like Colin Abbott and Christopjer Duffley who are blind and autistic, yet have so much positive energy and artistic ability are really an inspiration for all of us. Not only do they teach us to appreciate the everyday privilege of sight, but also open our eyes to the abilities of those who are typically seen as “lesser than” or “lacking.” Far from needing pity, these two boys are busy leading happy and productive lives with the support of their loved ones.