BELTON—For several hours on a recent Saturday, a University of Mary Hardin-Baylor gymnasium was transformed into an artists’ paradise.
From pencils and paint to canvas and cardboard puzzle pieces, children with autism expressed themselves through original artwork during an Autism in Action event, sponsored by the Student Government Association of Texas State Technical College in Waco.
As part of UMHB’s biannual Reaching Out community service program, several students joined in the day’s activities. Kelli Hearn and Allison Hulcy greeted children and distributed oversized puzzle pieces for family and friends to paint as well.
“We enjoy working with kids, loving on them,” Hearn said. “I love seeing them interact with their families. It’s a real sweet ministry.”
One child in 150 children will be diagnosed with autism, said Sarah-Jane Sanders, marketing and communications coordinator at Texas State Technical College.
“Often times, if you have an autistic kid in public, all the public sees is a rowdy kid,” Sanders said. “They operate differently than other people do. They can do so much more than people think they can, and we’d like to show the community that.”
Broderick Wilson, Student Government Association parliamentarian at the Waco school, said his autistic stepson inspired the idea behind the Autism in Action event.
“We knew that he was really interested in painting,” Wilson said. “He concentrates much more on painting than anything else.”
“Once an autistic child finds their niche, they stick with it,” he said. “It can really boost their self-esteem.”
Fourteen-year-old Ryan Padron found that niche nearly four years ago.
“My only favorite thing to do is draw,” Ryan said. “I feel great by drawing, like I’m a new person or famous.”
Ryan finds his inspirations in a small animation book featuring Naruto figures.
“It gives him the opportunity to show what he’s capable of,” said Mary Padron, Ryan’s mother.
“It just proves that even a child with a disability is capable of everything a normal child can do.
“These programs are great for kids. Every child will find their talent.”
All original artwork will be auctioned in April to help raise money to benefit the local and national autism organizations and to provide scholarships to graduating students transitioning to college.