Color Rendering of Proposed Mural

Color Rendering of Proposed Mural
by Chris Vincent

Wednesday, July 7, 2010

Let me tell you a story ...

One of the 17 Waukesha students with special education needs who will be painting part of this mural is my son. He just finished 5th grade, loves to draw pictures of heroes and villains from his favorite comic stories, and has autism. One of the hallmarks of this neurobiological disorder is difficulty with social interaction.  Because people with autism have brains that are wired differently than most others, the way they process and prioritize information makes forming relationships challenging.

So when at the end of his first grade year I got a note from one of my son's classmate's mothers that her boy wanted to be in the same class as my boy in second grade, I literally wept.  My boy had a friend -- someone who enjoyed him just the way he was.  And while my mommy heart soared, I did not know then just how important such friendships are in the life-long outcome for someone with autism spectrum disorder (ASD).

As it turns out, research indicates that a good determinant of quality of life for someone with ASD is his or her ability to be part of a community.  Having recreational opportunities and people who care about you are just as important as having a job and a place to call home.  But if we in our communities are not including people like my son, where will they belong?

While I appreciate the history of Waukesha that is the focal point of Chris Vincent's mural design, it is the history of my son's social development that tickles me most.  He now has a handful of friends, one of whom is taking time out on her birthday to help him paint a leaf in the border.  She, and all the other "regular education" school friends of children with special education needs, will show us how to make people with different abilities part of our community by being part of this remarkable junior artist team.

It's amazing what a little awareness, acceptance, and empathy can do.  I hope you'll watch it happen from 2-4 p.m. on Saturday, August 7, at the corner of Barstow and Main Streets in downtown Waukesha.

For more information about Good Friend and donating to this project, click here.  For more information on the mural, click on the color rendering of the mural above.

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