A new space in the DRC to be creative: Autism Acceptance Month

Jacob Contzius drew a picture of himself as a dolphin for his “spirit animal”.

During April Autism Acceptance Month, SUNY New Paltz shared artwork created by people with autism. Autism Acceptance Month aims to encourage connection, acceptance and inclusion for people with autism. Previously called Autism Awareness Month, SUNY New Paltz retired the old name. autism society encourages people to switch languages to reflect the shift from full awareness to seeking improved support and access for all autistic people across the social fabric.

Emi DiSciullo, learning support specialist at the Disability Resource Center (DRC), said: “This is important because people on the spectrum often feel misunderstood and may not have the platform to educate others about their disability.”

“While we are always working to raise awareness, words matter as we strive to enable people with autism to live full lives in all areas of life,” said Christopher Banks, President and CEO of the Autism Society of America. “As many individuals and families affected by autism know, acceptance is often one of the biggest obstacles to finding and developing a strong support system.”

“A new ground floor art therapy space on campus provides students with a safe space for creativity and expression, as well as connecting with others. Some materials provided in the space include paints, crayons, beads, collage materials, and clay,” DiSciullo said. “Opportunities are provided for guided artistic pursuits and free-choice creativity. It’s a welcoming environment where students always have the opportunity to share their work with others and talk about their process and feedback or just let the art speak for itself.

In addition to the art therapy space, the DRC offers multiple services to the approximately 60 students registered with an autism spectrum disorder (ASD) at the college. This includes one-on-one support meetings, group socializing, leadership and community service opportunities, access to housing, and providing students with disabilities with a place to go with questions or concerns. Unlike other schools, SUNY New Paltz does not charge for these ASD services.

One of the artworks featured by SUNY New Paltz was by third-year Production and Digital Media Major Jacob Contzius, which featured a painting of a dolphin on a gray stone. He created the piece after a guided tour of the Mary Frank art exhibit at the Dorsky Museum of Art. Contzius was inspired by Franks’ depictions of hybrids of animals and humans after the group was tricked into painting themselves as their “spirit animals”.

He said the oracle“I chose the dolphin because dolphins have shown signs of human intelligence and I very much appreciate my ability to reason. But I also long for the freedom of movement that dolphins must have, able to maneuver with water agility I’m not exactly athletic and have trouble managing my time so I always feel like I’m tripping in both space and time.

“To show that the dolphin is me, I added my signature hairstyle. I thought it would be funny to make it look like I had suddenly turned into a dolphin, so I made my best to show off the sleeves of my sweatshirt hanging off the flippers and the tail sticking out of a pant leg.

“Freedom from my current physical and societal restraints is what dolphin form represents to me,” Contzius said.



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