Fierce Love and Art: an interview with Dr. Laurence Becker

Fierce Love and Art

“Synchronicity is evident when a Life is ABLAZE with ReFIREment,”  Laurence A. Becker

By Ron Sandison

On March 22, I was delighted as I opened a letter from Dr. Laurence A. Becker founder of Creative Learning Environments and the producer of With Eyes Wide Open, a documentary film of the life and art of Richard Wawro, an autistic savant from Edinburgh, Scotland.

Dr. Laurence began his letter,

“Dear Ron,

I was surprised by the synchronicity of discovering your book, A Parent’s Guide to Autism: Practical Advice. Biblical Wisdom this past weekend while we were in Houston filming Grant Manier and his mother Julie for my new documentary film, Fierce Love and Art. While the cinematographer, Ron Zimmerman, was filming Grant at work, I was sitting nearby and happened to look at the titles of several books in his book case. I picked out your book and begin reading the endorsements inside and discovered one by Bill Gaventa. He is the father of Matt our new senior pastor at our church in Austin, TX. Then I saw the foreword by Kristine Barnett whom I also know… I would welcome an opportunity to meet with you or talk on the phone.”

The next day, Dr. Laurence and I talked for over an hour. I loved hearing about his new documentary Fierce Love and Autism—as he spoke I wanted to be one of his featured artists. The documentary shares stories of autistic savants and prodigies whose parents used art, music, or poetry to help their child’s creativity to blossom and experience life.

Grant Manier is an example in the film of the power of imaginative outlets transforming a child. As toddler Grant obsessively tore pieces of paper. His mother Julie patently nurtured Grant’s love for bright color tissue paper. He learned gradually to arrange the torn bits into beautiful animal artwork. Grant developed social skills and confidence through his artwork. He is famous for saying, “It’s not what you can’t do; it’s what you can that makes you more.”     

Grant Manier Jigsaw Giraffe
Grant Manier with his new book Grant: The Jigsaw Giraffe. Grant has turned his repetitive habit of tearing paper into beautiful pieces of art. He has used puzzle pieces to create his art.

These inspiring artist/musicians/poets featured are Ping Lin Yeak, a painter from Malaysia/Australia; Tony DeBlois, a savant musician from Boston; Grant Manier, a paper collage artist from Houston, TX; Richard Wawro, a painter from Scotland; Christophe Phillault, a hand painter of France; Kimberly Dixon, a non-verbal poet and painter from Round Rock, Texas; Erik Warren, a woodcarver from Kansas; Marshall Steward Ball, a non-verbal prodigy writer/profound thinker from Asheville, North Carolina.

Christophe Pillault
Christophe PillautDr. Becker says about Christophe Pillault’s art above:  “These two pieces of Christophe’s art were when he was 14 years old. That was in 1996! I held the first exhibition of his art with Richard Wawro in 1998 at the Mill Pond Gallery on Long Island, NY.  The next year we were in Toronto.  That’s the last time I was with Christophe’s mother, Jacqueline.  We want to include him in the film, but we have not yet been able to contact his mother,  Jacqueline.  We hope to make contact and possibly fly to France to film him and Michael Wawro, Richard’s brother.  Richard passed away in 2006.”

In May, Dr. Laurence emailed me that my family was chosen to be part of the documentary. I would be the final stop of their 2,500 plus road trip and be filmed after Dr. Darold Treffert, a world renowned expert on savants and prodigies who resides in Wisconsin.

On Monday, June 26th after working at the hospital, Dr. Laurence and Ron Zimmerman filmed me at my parent’s house in Rochester Hills, MI. Earlier in the day they interviewed my parents. My mom proudly displayed all my artwork for them. I shared in the documentary how my mom quit her job as an art teacher and became a full-time “Ron Teacher.”

Through drawing and painting animals, I gained self-confidence and learned social skills. My mom used my special interest in prairie dogs to help me develop as an artist and in fifth grade I won the Detroit Edison Poster contest for Oakland County. For the grand prize my stuffed prairie dog, Prairie Pup, and I met the captain of the Detroit Pistons Isiah Thomas.

As a visual thinker art empowered me to learn. Through my mom’s art therapy mixed with a pre-ABA reward system of plastic animals. I was able to graduate from college, get married, and have a family. I am forever grateful for my mom and dad’s fierce love.  

Click here to visit the website for Fierce Love and Art. Donate to the Indiegogo Campaign for the film here.


Ron Sandison works full time in the medical field and is a professor of theology at Destiny School of Ministry. He is an advisory board member of Autism Society Faith Initiative of Autism Society of American. Sandison has a Master of Divinity from Oral Roberts University and is the author of A Parent’s Guide to Autism: Practical Advice. Biblical Wisdom published by Charisma House. He has memorized over 10,000 Scriptures including 22 complete books of the New Testament and over 5,000 quotes.

He frequently guest speaks at colleges, conferences, autism centers, and churches. Ron and his wife, Kristen, reside in Rochester Hills, MI, with a baby daughter, Makayla Marie born on March 20, 2016. You can contact Ron at his website or email him at




2 replies on “Fierce Love and Art: an interview with Dr. Laurence Becker”
  1. Hello!

    I’ve been a big fan of Becker’s work since 1999, when KISS OF GOD came out and I learnt he had mentored Marshall Stewart Ball.

    MSB is in Asheville now?

    FIERCE LOVE seems to be a mix of artists and savants this time.

    Last year I saw the film WITH EYES WIDE OPEN which is in two parts on the Web Archive.

    And it’s great to look at books on the bookcase, whether or not someone allows you to do that. I find that a very intimate thing to do.

    Remembering some awesome experiences with Ping – there was a good article about him in 2014 and he was in a tourism book at the Glebe Point Hotel. And when you would go on the Rocks and other central Sydney icons, you see Ping’s work [I believe he has a gallery].

    Warren’s and Dixon’s works are new to me.

    It will probably be good to see the bit with you and your Mum, Ron.

    1. says: Ron Sandison

      Thanks so much : ) I just wrote an article from interviewing Kim Dixon’s parents. I hope to promote Fierce, Love & Art at colleges through out MI. I hope to interview Marshall Stewart Ball and his family next. He has an amazing story also : )

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