14-Year-Old Autistic Boy Finds Happiness through Art

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Children on the autism spectrum often find a supportive environment through different forms of therapy. In the case of John Tran, a 14-year-old autistic boy from Indiana, his love for art has transformed into a therapeutic technique. John had been struggling to develop adequately for his age when his parents took him to visit a neuroscientist specialist in Indianapolis. Dr. Jane Yip quickly noticed John was having a difficult time trying to communicate and demonstrated a tendency to act rather aggressively. However, this all would change once John discovered his passion towards painting. 

Many parents of children diagnosed with autism recognize that each child faces different challenges and it’s not likely that the same treatment will work to the individual needs of each child. Dr. Yip acknowledges the nature of cognitive disorders such as autism and saw how John’s sensitivity to noises, lights, and crowds would hinder his progress and cause him to break out in anger. For 2 years, Yip made little improvements with John until she told him he would have to leave his family home unless his aggressive streaks would subdue. 

John started to cry after hearing the heartbreaking suggestion and expressed desire to change his behavior. Dr. Yip proceeded to ask him what he liked to do during his free time, with hopes that a hobby would stop him from throwing increasingly dangerous temper tantrums. John decided to grab a paper and began to draw on it with an impressive focus. From that moment on, every session between John and Yip included coloring (in the event that John performed an assigned task successfully). A year later, Yip showed John’s paintings to a friend who suggested John should start drawing with canvas and paints in order to enhance his style. 

Dr. Yip states, “He was painting away and he laughed for the first time in his life – he was jumping and laughing.” She continues, “His behavior? Used to be he had 100 minutes of severe behavior – be like a boxing ring actually – and that dropped radically from 100 minutes to 10 minutes per session.” John is currently producing mesmerizing pieces of art with the help of artist Kathy Lloyd.

Juliet King, director of the Graduate Art Therapy program at Herron School of Art and Design, says John’s story illustrates the need for more research to study how the creation of art impacts the brain and alters its chemistry. For example, John has a preference for red colors when he’s angry and goes for the blue ones when he feels calmer. Dr. Yip is optimistic about his future in the art world. “John is not disabled, but differently abled”, Yip says. John Tran’s paintings are now displayed at the Sullivan Munce Cultural Center in Zionsville, Indiana until February 20th. 

For additional information, please visit: http://indianapublicmedia.org/news/indianapolis-boy-autism-finds-92865/

Written By: Edgar Catasus