Friday, October 7, 2022

Jacob's Expressing Himself and Showing his Artistic Side

 I'd often wondered how Jacob would learn to express himself if he couldn't talk. 

I could tell by watching him that he had way too much to say, to remain uncommunicative with the world. 

It did not surprise me when he took an interest in drawing. 

Initially, he scribbled. A LOT.  But soon, he began adding structure to his lines. Spiders. People. Monsters.  Lots and LOTS of monsters. He's obsessed with them. But he's also obsessed with anything slightly scary. 

During ABA he drew pictures instead of practicing his letters. Then he started asking for paper when he wasn't in ABA. Soon, I was seeing marks on the wall (sigh - there went the new paint job!) and then he was asking for different things to color with. Instead of a ballpoint pen, he wanted a colored pen. Then he tried colored pencils. And back to colored pens.                                            

In June, I took him to Hobby Lobby, and we perused the art aisle. He was like a kid in a candy store!

"What do you want?" I asked him, pointing to the row of paints, pens, and pencils. 

He pointed to a package of colored pens.

"Pens?" I asked.

He nodded.

"Use your words. P-eh-nz," I said, enunciating each word.

Jake stared at my mouth and mimicked each letter. "Ph-uhhhhh-ssssss,"

I nodded and smiled. "Good job." Jerking my head toward the cart, I said, "Throw them in."

He grinned, giggled, and tossed the pens into the cart, then clapped his hands and did a happy dance, hopping from foot to foot as he giggled.

We walked a couple of feet and did the same thing with paints. And again with chalks and papers. In the next aisle, we found canvases. They were on sale—half-off!

We pushed the cart down the aisle while I looked for 8X10 canvases. They'd be the perfect size for Jake and his behavioral tech when she came to work on Wednesday. They could go outside, sit on the grass, get a little sun, and paint to their heart's content without worrying about a mess. 

"Mom," Jake said from behind me.

I turned to his voice, and he was standing in front of a massive white canvas, about two feet tall and four feet wide. Oy. 

"Uh, that's a little bigger than I'm looking for," I said. "Let's find something smaller."

Jake shook his head and pointed to the ginormous canvas.

"It's too big, Jake."

He pointed to the canvas and shook his finger. "Dis."

I glanced at the price tag.  Yep. Half-off.  The massive canvas was only going to cost me about fifteen dollars. I glanced at Jake and squinted. Would it end up being a jumbled mess? Or did he have something in mind? Sometimes it was hard to tell. But for fifteen bucks I was willing to throw caution to the wind and let him embrace his creative side. Who knows? Maybe he'd surprise me.

"Okay. Grab one," I said. 

Jake's eyes widened, he giggled, then he pulled a giant canvas from the aisle and handed it to me. I picked it up to put it in my cart and chuckled. Too big to fit. I was going to have to carry that thing with one hand the whole rest of the trip. 

Thank goodness we were almost done. 

Our final stop was in the acrylics aisle, where I let him choose any ten colors he wanted. Hues of reds, oranges, pinks, and purples.  

His grin was as big as his face and he laughed and did a funky skip dance all the way to our car. All weekend he asked to paint, and I kept reminding him he needed to wait until ABA on Monday. 

As soon as Ameila showed up, Jake was pointing to the canvas and the paints and dragged her, and the person shadowing her, out to the yard where they could paint. Thank goodness it was a sunny day. He probably would have painted in the rain if he had to.

He gave each person a paintbrush, and I brought out some paper towels and water.  Then, he got to work, pouring his paints onto the giant canvas and swirling them all over the white surface. 

He grinned, and pointed to the others, making sure everyone got a chance to add their art to the project. We made smiley faces, and monsters, and wrote letters, and painted our names. He added a wheel, a heart, and a whole host of designs we couldn't interpret, but I'm sure meant something special to him. 

When we were done, we left the canvas on the grass to dry till after dinner. 

I expected him to forget about it, but he was the one to remind me. We went outside, retrieved his masterpiece, and he had me hang it on the wall of his bedroom where he could see it from his bed. 

A few days later, he added three more canvases, decorated with other behavior therapists.  Then, he added drawings made with ballpoint pens and written on lined paper. Words he wrote by himself. A spider (actually, lots of spiders!), people, butterflies, hearts, and anything else he was in the mood to write. Each page was taped to his walls, or on his ceiling near his bed. A few he had me put up above my computer so I could see them when I worked. 

As the weeks went on, the drawings became more precise. The hearts were less boxy, the lines smoother and rounder. The humans began to have fingers and necks and arms and hair and faces. The monsters had more legs and body parts.  Now, four months later, he continues to draw. Nearly every day he has something new to offer me. 

I pulled out an old camera I bought for when our oldest daughter played sports. It's a very nice camera. Not professional grade, but definitely not for selfies. 

Now that I don't have anyone in sports, I don't use it nearly as often as I should. I can do everything I need with my old iPhone. 

So I loaned it to Jacob and wound up with 137 photos of his toes, his knees, the rug, and his belly.  But there were a couple of gems too. Hopefully, if his interest continues, I'll be able to share some of those photos as he gets a better understanding of how the camera works. 

I'd love to see the world from his eyes. 

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