My daughter, Lauren, is a member of the group of young adults who grew up on the evolving autism spectrum. For Lauren, a clear diagnosis eluded all of the professionals for many years. Over time, the spectrum expanded and Lauren landed as an "artist in residence".
Lauren's "artistic abilities" are quite limited in traditional terms. Her fine motor skills are weak and she doesn't "Love" to paint, draw or work with clay. She does enjoy sitting at a table and being part of a group participating in craft activities.
Despite these limitations, Lauren helps to paint the landscape every day with her own special palette.... her heart. With the stroke of a painter's brush, Lauren brightens everyone's day. She says "hello" and shakes hands with...the rich, poor, old, young, disabled and able-bodied.
She puts a smile on the face of the clerk in the grocery story, the bus driver and the elderly man sitting alone on a park bench. She is sensitive to the baby who is crying and the person wearing a band aid.
Her obsessive compulsive qualities add a facetious and often humorous side to her approach to life. She's not quite ready for a comedy club...but she is funny to watch as she methodically puts her dishes away in the exact same spot, drinks every drop of her drink and recycles every bottle and can.
Lauren's room is always clean, neat and orderly. On one occasion her cousin left a wet bathing suit on Lauren's bed. Later, everyone was looking for the missing bathing suit. Alas, it was found. Lauren put the wet bathing suit "away" in the clothes hamper!
Culinary arts are Lauren's specialty. Lauren loves to eat and she can make her Mom or a staffer feel like Julia Child...with just one word, "Delicious"! She loves to help out with cooking and has been found up during the night eating her lunch packed for the next day.
The stage takes the performing arts to new heights. Lauren has performed in sign language plays and dance recitals. She has more fun on stage than any star on Broadway. Lauren doesn't know that the way to Carnegie Hall is "practice, practice", but videotaped performances help her to relive the experience over and over.
The visual arts offer an opportunity for Lauren to have her photograph taken and to say "cheese". She spends hours looking through her boxes of photographs, even the ones friends and family members wish would be thrown away.
Dark days can be filled with behavior issues, seizures, or acting out (taking her clothes off in public places, pulling hair and or tearing a shirt or necklace off someone). But, Lauren's resilience teaches us patience....as she springs back the next day with the grace of an Olympic diver.
Much like the back side of a beautiful needlepoint, Lauren is part of the fabric of the human family. Her seizures, flapping, moans, unsteady gait, and tremors are often tangled together. But, on the front side of the needlepoint is a beautiful face, eyes bluer than a robin's egg, and the sweetest smile.
Her Dad is an architect. With the skill of a sculptor, Lauren has shaped his commitment to the Americans with Disabilities Act and his efforts to make workplaces accessible to people with disabilities. She has taught him much about tolerance of people with differences.
I am a pediatric nurse practitioner and nursing educator. With the precision of an artist arranging the pieces of a mosaic, Lauren has guided the pieces of my life into a new pattern of giving. I became a better, more caring nurse and educator as well as an advocate for nurses with disabilities. I founded a nonprofit organization for nurses with disabilities and wrote three books. I also blog about Lauren and life as an adult living in supported living at "Autism parenting is an Olympic event" Autism parenting is an Olympic event!!!
With the precision of an artisan bricklayer, Lauren has helped to build our commitment to each other, to her, and others within the disability community. Our marriage is solid---built on a strong foundation of love, grace, and humor.
Now after, 29 years, if someone asks me if Lauren is "artistic", I proudly say, "Yes she is!" And, today's your lucky day. You just won a free ticket to one of her shows.........