TCAC explores the art of autism

GRAFTON— Art Therapist, Carmello Tabone, has volunteered to host an art course for autistic students, of any age, free of charge.

The course will be held on Saturday, March 18, at Gallery 62 West, from 1:00-3:00 p.m. Tabone is requesting that a parent or guardian be present during the class. In addition, Tabone reported that there would be no limit on participants for this specific class.

“People of any age can be an art student,” commented Taylor County Arts Council member, Holly Hill. “I was 52 when I took my first art class.”

Tabone shared that his inspiration for holding the class came from his granddaughter, who is autistic. He also revealed that he has been working with autistic individuals for over 20 years.

“These individuals are smart and truly amazing, they deserve the same opportunities as anyone else,” expressed Tabone. “Art gives these individuals an alternative way to express themselves, in ways they may otherwise not be able to. When I first started working as an art therapist, autism affected one in every 10,000, today it is closer to one in every 50,” he added.

According to, autism and autism spectrum disorder (ASD), are both general terms for a group of complex disorders of brain development. These disorders are characterized by challenges with social skills, repetitive behaviors, speech and nonverbal communication, along with unique strengths and differences.

The site also states that autism statistics from the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), report nearly 1 in 68 American children have autism. Studies also show that autism is four to five times more common among boys, than girls. An estimated 1 out of 42 boys, and 1 in 189 girls are diagnosed with autism in the United States.

ASD is estimated to affect more than two million individuals in the U.S. alone, and tens of millions worldwide. Government autism statistics suggest prevalence rates have increased ten to 17 percent annually in recent years.

Currently there is no established explanation for the continuing increase, although improved diagnosis and environmental influences are two reasons that are often considered.

Further shared by the website, there is no one specific cause of autism, just as there is not one type of autism.

Scientists have identified rare gene changes, or mutations, associated with autism. Research has identified more than a hundred autism risk genes. In approximately 15 percent of cases, a specific genetic cause of a person’s autism can be identified. However, most cases involve a complex and variable combination of genetic risk and environmental factors that influence early brain development.

According to, the most obvious signs of the disorder appear between two and three years of age. However, in some cases it can be diagnosed as early as 18 months.

It has been proven through years of study, that art therapy is ideally suited for those with autism. The reason being, art therapy promotes mental and emotional growth through creating artwork. Art therapy is conducted with an aim of building like skills, while addressing deficits and problematic behaviors, as well as promoting a healthier way for self-expression. Creating attractive art isn’t the goal.

“Some of those suffering from autism have complications with communicating with others. Art is a special form of communication,” expressed Tabone.

Texas teen, Grant Manier, is proof that anyone can be an artist.

Manier is one of the country’s most exciting, emerging young artists, and he has done it all while being diagnosed with autism.

According to, Manier is a special needs advocate, with an amazing story of overcoming a complex disorder, and how it granted him with some of the most amazing gifts.

At the age of three, Manier showed an extreme passion and fascination for paper. However, he also showed signs of extreme anxiety, social challenges, and obsessions. At the age of five, Manier was diagnosed with autism.

Manier struggled in the public school setting, and was disciplined at school for his compulsive habit of shredding paper. He was later homeschooled and taught to use his love of paper shredding, to make collages. Manier embraced his new outlet, and gave it a purpose.

Not what one would call the “typical” artist, Manier took the compulsive habit, of ripping paper and made it into magical artwork. He cuts and tears 1000’s of pieces of paper and puzzles, carefully placing them together to create his Eco-art masterpieces, which he refers to as “COOLAGES.” To Manier, reducing, reusing and recycling paper, to tear over and over again is a form of meditation.

At the age of 14, he created his first eco-art masterpiece, titled “The SUN GOD,” created using 4,000 pieces of cut and torn recycled magazines, calendars and craft paper, onto a canvas. As shared on his website, his mother would have sold the piece for $100. However, after meeting with an appraiser and explaining her son’s story, the masterpiece was insured for $7,500.

Manier has been recognized by the United States Congress, Texas State Senate, Texas Governor, the Mayor of Houston and the Austin Rodeo, as a Grand Champion on the Eco-Art division, as well as receiving many other honorable awards.

Grant Mainer stands for hope to many individuals who have been diagnosed with autism, a reminder to take what makes you who you are, and turn in into your own a work of art, teaching everyone that a disability can be tuned into an ability.

The Art of Autism course will be offered again in April. For more information contact Holly Hill at 304-376-5066, or visit the Taylor County Arts Council on Facebook.

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