Autistic artist paints a thousand words

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COLFAX, Wis. (WEAU) – Mayo Clinic Health System – Red Cedar in Menomonie is looking brighter and more colorful, thanks to a local teen who donated his paintings.

18-year-old Jake Schindler of Colfax started painting in April and his paintings are worth a thousand words. Although he can’t express himself through words, a blank canvas and some paint gives him a place to share his artistic talents, rather than focusing on his autism.

“You can see he's really enjoying it too,” said Jake’s mom Christina Schindler. “You'll look at the corner of his eyes and grin and see all those facial expressions that at times we don't see.”

Jake was diagnosed on the autism spectrum at age 2.

It was a ‘eureka’ moment when Jake’s grandfather saw a television show about two young men who are both on the autism spectrum. One man created abstract art while the other did more detailed art.

That’s when Christina did some research on abstract art and thought it’d be an opportunity to see how Jake responds.

“We were having a lot of fun just looking at his art when he's done, we would see different things in his art that others may not,” she said.

Recently, ten pieces of art were donated to Mayo Clinic Health System – Red Cedar. You’ll find paintings hanging on the walls of Emergency/Urgent Care as well as Pediatrics and Triage.

“Jacob was born at the Red Cedar Medical Hospital and so that’s where it all began,” said Christina. “We like to have people not only recognize Jake’s diagnosis but also understand that people in the spectrum also have abilities,”

The community of Colfax also has pieces of Jake’s art. Over at Mane Street Salon, you’ll find mugs for sale with pictures of Jake’s paintings printed across.

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention reports around 1 in 88 children have been diagnosed with an autism spectrum disorder.

While the diagnosis between kids can be the same, the severity and symptoms can be night and day. Jake’s 19-year-old brother Matthew was also diagnosed on the autism spectrum. While both brothers have the same diagnosis, Jake cannot communicate verbally while Matthew can.

“He has more independent skills whereas Jake needs more assistance through the day,” said Christina.

Teri Anderson is one of Jake’s personal care workers. She’s been a part of Jake’s life for the last year and a half and has witnessed his growing interest in painting.

“I set everything in front of him and I ask him what color he wants to use and he picks it up and sometimes he wants it in his hands and sometimes he wants me to drop it on his canvas,” said Anderson.

Teri and Christina both said they noticed Jake likes painting with bright colors.

“Usually his favorite colors have been purple, pink. That shows he’s in a good mood, he likes the bright colors,” said Teri.

Christina said she believes painting is therapeutic for her son.

“He loves the texture, feel of the canvas and also the paints. We discovered that certain types of paints he does not want to use,” said Christina.

R. Gregg Kishaba, M.D. is Jake’s pediatrician at Mayo Clinic Health System in Eau Claire. He said art can bring benefits to patients like Jake.

“Art definitely can be used as an outlet for all kinds of energy or stress,” Dr. Kishaba says. “Oftentimes, difficult behaviors can improve because of the outlets creating artwork can provide.”

Jake’s abstract art has been turned into a children’s interactive book called ‘What Do You See?’ Each page has one of Jake’s paintings and Christina said the family hopes the book can help other families and also give people a better understand of autism. She said her family is donating a total of 20 copies of Jake’s interactive book to public schools and public libraries throughout West Central Wisconsin that request it.

On Wednesday, Christina said Jake will find out if he won at an art contest in Wisconsin Dells.



 
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