Editorial note: I loved this blog about Trent and can relate to his triumph over what would be a very over-stimulating experience. I could see my own son Kevin leaving the venue and hanging out alone in the hallway. Congratulations to Trent for participating in the performance. Trent was one of the first artists on the spectrum that I displayed at an art exhibit over eight years ago. His mom’s blogs are inspirational. I’ve so enjoyed reading about Trent’s growth as a person and an artist over the years. d.h.
Contributed By Jacquelyn Marquette, Ph.D. (Trent’s mom)
On October 22, 2012 in NYC, the McCarton Foundation highlighted and honored 14 autism artists from around the world. It was a privilege that Trent Altman, my son, was one of the artists chosen to exhibit his paintings at the event. Their diverse talents included singers, dancers, musicians, painters and animators. They traveled from around the globe and their ages ranged from 6 to 36. According to Dr. McCarton, “Their gifts lie in their difference, that it is not in spite of, but because they are on the autistic spectrum that they’ve been able to achieve the extraordinary.”
In the presence of all that talent, I felt admiration and a sense of beauty. That evening created a sense of awe for me.
Dr. Martin Seligman tells us the only way to achieve your potential is through one’s strengths. Deci and Ryan suggest that a person’s personal determination is strengthened through developing one’s interests. By applying both in combination, a person can be lifted out of a rut, to full involvement in developing individual talents and interests. I have seen this in my work with young adults with autism.
The evening was one of extremes for Trent. Numerous people approached Trent to express their compliments and appreciation for his artwork, and additionally asked him to pose for photos. The combination of people’s verbal admiration, the loud speaker system for the performers, and an inability to escape the sensory overload, Trent withdrew to the bathroom or hallway. The evening was difficult for him.
However, Trent surprised us. After a video of 50 images of Trent’s art was shown and set to beautify orchestra music, Dr. Richard Besser, EMCEE for the event and ABC Chief Health and Medical Editor asked Trent to come up on stage to be recognized. Trent walked to the stage and gave two bows, regardless of the loud hand clapping and standing ovations. It was so emotional to see his courage.
At the end of the program Trent was asked to join all the artists to sing ‘Its a Wonderful World’. He refused adamantly and asked us to take him back to the hotel. As the artists began to sing, we respected his choice. Then someone said to Trent, “You belong up there with all the other artists.” Without encouragement, he walked bravely to the stage and stood in dead center in front of the line of artists and began singing and rocking to the beat as if he were a solo artist with back up singers. He sang his heart out to ‘It’s A Wonderful World’.
So many lessons I continue to learn about his growth and others who have autism. Exposure to settings, experiences to use strengths and interests, regardless of failed or successful outcomes, can beautifully transcend a person with autism. I learned to believe in the good of it all and let go of the outcome.
This is how I see it: the secret of autism success lies in the act of participation or performing which is tied between the person and the event. The person makes the event and the event the person. We may never know the powerful impact in the act of performing, hearing compliments by others, and feeling of admiration that can bring to one’s emotional self awareness. Trent participated victoriously and rose above his challenges of sensory overload, and all the 14 artists from around the world triumphed in performing their unique gifts and talents.
I think Kris Kristopherson said it best, “Doing what you love to do and doing it with your spirit and your heart–that’s as good as it gets.”
Thank you Dr. McCarton for offering an amazing venue for talented artists with autism to shine through their gifts.
Jacquelyn Marquette’s website is www.drjackiemarquette.com
Trent’s website is www.trentstudio.com
More information on The Genius of Autism awards and the McCarton Foundation can be found at http://mccartonfoundation.org/genius/2012-genius-of-autism/