About the Author
In 1998, after her youngest child Kevin was diagnosed with autism, Debra cut back her work hours as systems analyst to focus on her son and two older children. Networking and creating relationships with a number of entities became her focus to create better systems for Kevin and other people with developmental disabilities.
During the years 2000-2007, she was a founding member and officer of the Autism Society of Santa Barbara, The Rhythmic Arts Project, and Project Angels Bearing Gifts – all organizations that serve the developmentally disabled. These nonprofits remain viable and thriving organizations.
In 2003, Kevin was introduced to art by a clinician with the UCSB Koegel Autism Center. In 2005, Debra began curating art exhibits for her son and other people who were marginalized in society, including prisoners, the mentally ill, and the developmentally disabled.
In 2007, Debra was approached by Karen Simmons of Autism Today to create the second “Artism” book. “Artism: The Art of Autism: Shattering Myths” featured 54 artists on the autism spectrum from around the world including her son Kevin. In 2012, Debra published her own book “The Art of Autism: Shifting Perceptions,” featuring art and poetry of 77 autistic artists. During this time she co-founded with film-maker Keri Bowers The Art of Autism collaborative project which now includes over 250 artists, poets, and entertainers on the autism spectrum from twenty different countries and over 35 collaborating like-minded organizations. The Art of Autism website features a popular virtual art gallery.
Debra and her son Kevin have been featured in two documentaries about art and autism and she has been featured on radio and television shows, including NPR. Debra has written articles for publications and blogs, including Family Circle and The Autism File, and has presented at art associations, universities and autism events across the country. She is the co-host of “Positively Autistic: Celebrate Autism” radio show.
Debra is currently on the Board of CHANCE, Inc. – a housing organization that serves disabled people in Santa Barbara, and Eco-Artism, a recycled art nonprofit based in Houston, Texas. Her seventeen-year old son Kevin was recently honored in a VSA Arts Exhibit and his work “Bus or Cycle” hangs at the S. Dillon Ripley Center at the Smithsonian.