Today was the last day of Islands of Brilliance, a mentorship program for kids with Autism headed by Mark and Margaret Fairbanks and company. For six weeks the kids work one-on-one with a mentor to create an art project. The sessions take place at Discovery world, so there is much by way of entertainment, as if a computer and print lab aren't enough to keep kids busy these days.
My student, Gus, was a pretty diligent worker. He came to the sessions enthused to work on his 18x24 poster about his favorite Sonic the Hedgehog game. He left no character behind, finding them all on Google and dragging them into Adobe Illustrator. I was surprised at how quickly he learned to look for PNG files with transparent pixel backgrounds. For a kid of about ten years, he was adapting to the software at an intuitive pace. While he never claimed to be artistic, Gus exhibited the same rise and fall of discovery, crafting, and composing--followed sometimes by moments of frustration, as is the way of the artist--and the eventual decision, "it's finished."
You can see it a lot bigger here.
The experience was mutually awesome.
Powering the program were the incredible hearts and minds of the Fairbanks team and the expertly patient and creative support staff at Islands. The team is what really makes this whole thing work. Each week it seemed they had a new strategy to help move each student forward. They emphasized that success is defined a little differently case by case. This means that what works for one student to keep them motivated might not be what works for another. I was continuously amazed by the leadership of Margaret and Mark throughout the sessions.
So, the program is going to continue to grow, because they are doing great things, and everybody wants in. They, or should I say we, need more volunteers. If you know Adobe, you can help somebody who will remember you forever. When I saw the way Gus looked at the poster he had made by himself (mostly) I knew it was all worth it. He was so proud! I'm pretty proud of him too.