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Artistic dreams of autistic boys

December 2021 closes a successful year for 17-year-old Tran Nam Long, with the first prize of a painting contest on the topic “The right to go to school of people with disabilities”.

Two works”I want to be like him” and “With you“expressing the desire to go to school, so that children with disabilities are like other children… won the only first prize in the Hanoi area. Before that, in September 2021, five other paintings by Nam Long, including Four landscape paintings and one drawing of her mother represented Vietnam at an art exhibition for people with disabilities in Italy.

Those are gifts that Ms. Phung Hieu, the mother of a boy born deaf and mute, with severe autism since the age of one, never expected to receive from her son.

Hanoi in the painting of Tran Nam Long, class 8A, Department of Deaf, Central Pedagogical College.  This is also one of 5 paintings by Long sent to attend the art show for the disabled in Italy, in 2021.

Hanoi in the painting of Tran Nam Long, class 8A, Department of Deaf, Central Pedagogical College. This is also one of 5 paintings of Long sent to attend the art show for the disabled in Italy, in 2021. Photo: Provided by the character.

Ms. Hieu said, more than a decade ago, after a severe pneumonia had to take high-dose antibiotics, Long no longer reacted to the surrounding sounds. Going to the doctor, the doctor concluded that he was deaf. At the age of two, he just gurgled in his throat, liked to run on tiptoe and lie on the floor. Every time he hears his mother’s lullaby, the boy just laughs loudly, lying in bed struggling for a long time before falling asleep. Seeing that the child was not normal, Ms. Hieu took the child to the doctor. The doctor concluded that he was autistic with hyperactivity.

In order for her child to go to school, the mother sent her child to a school for deaf and dumb children in Thanh Xuan district. Ms. Hieu switched to working as an hourly maid to have time to take Long to school, tutoring in the evening.

After the meal, every day Long was taught how to suck up a milk carton or blow thin rolls of paper on the table. In order for the child to learn to make eye contact, the boy is also often held by his mother in her arms to talk to the mirror. So diligent, after a year, Long knows how to look at the other person when talking and laugh when his mother teases him.

When Long was three years old, Ms. Hieu discovered that her son had a talent for drawing when he could sketch out what he remembered in his head on the way home from school. Since then, every weekend, mother and daughter would take each other around to paint outdoor scenes.

In October 2016, when the economy was stable, Long was taken by his mother to study at an art center. But one day, his father died suddenly due to a traffic accident. The economic burden fell on his mother’s shoulders, so Long had to stay at home.

But the boy is still eager to learn how to draw, standing in front of the door every day asking his mother when he can return to class art. Looking at her child’s eager and waiting face, Hieu’s heart aches. After many nights of thinking, one weekend, she took her children to the bus station and took the bus to the art center. That day was just four months after her husband’s death.

Tran Nam Long loves to go outside to paint.  In the year 2022, he and his mother took a trip to Ha Giang to compose.  Photo: Character provided.

Tran Nam Long, 17 years old, during a picnic on the outskirts of Hanoi, in 2021. Photo: Character provided.

In November 2016, the old teacher called to announce a drawing contest for teenagers called “Emotions in you“Ms. Hieu sent two of her children’s paintings to the contest. Long’s painting of Hanoi’s Old Quarter then won a special prize and was auctioned for 100 million dong, supporting a charity fund for children. One member The judges commented, “This boy’s thinking is not like a child but an adult”, and at the same time accepted to teach Long for free.

For 7 consecutive months, 4-5 sessions a week, every afternoon, Ms. Hieu would drive her son to the teacher’s drawing studio. For the first time being known to paint and brush, the 11-year-old boy seemed to be back in his own world. Instead of using a pen to scale, Long completely imagined. He often used his hand to sweep his face and then put the pen. “That’s me putting all the pictures on the canvas before I draw,” said the mother.

Since her son entered professional painting, Ms. Hieu actively participated in art groups so that Long could learn more. Currently, the 17-year-old boy is a member of a group specializing in painting the exterior of Hanoi’s Old Quarter, including famous painters and architects. In 2018, Long’s paintings were selected by the group to submit to the competition and won a place in the exhibition “Bui Xuan Phai – For the love of Hanoi”.

At the end of March 2020, in the auction to support the government against the epidemic Covid-19Long participated with a painting about Hanoi’s old town called “Villa 39 To Hien Thanh“. At the end of the session, the acrylic painting was bought by an anonymous person for 25 million VND. Half of the money was deposited into the account of the Vietnam Fatherland Front, the rest was reserved by Ms. Hieu. In June 2021, Long continued to have surgery for the third time due to muscle paralysis and congenital bone deficiency.After three surgeries, he can now walk on his own without being exhausted. prior to.

As an 8th grade student of the Deaf department at the Central College of Art Pedagogy, Long now has a dream to open a solo exhibition of 150 completed paintings. His favorite subject is architecture, especially drawing Hanoi’s Old Quarter.

“I hope to become a painter in the future, earn a lot of money so that my mother can work less hard,” explained Long using a hand sign.

Have the same dream of becoming artist Like Nam Long, the Vietnamese-Korean boy Lee Nguyen Sae Hae has won many domestic painting awards. Sae Hae is also a boy with autism.

All of Sae Hae’s unusual expressions began at the age of 20 months when he liked to run forward and was indifferent to everything, and did not know how to make eye contact. When her son was diagnosed with autism, Anh Van – Sae Hae’s mother – started the journey to accompany her son.

Six months of studying at specialized intervention centers, but Sae Hae did not make any progress, crying every day. In order for the child to integrate with friends, Ms. Van asked for the boy to be admitted to a normal preschool. In the morning, I study in a regular preschool, in the afternoon, I intervene at a special center, and in the evening I go to her house to teach individually. Every day, to keep up with the lessons, mother and daughter often bring dinner to eat on the road, instead of driving home.

Son could not speak, could not distinguish simple concepts, mother found her own way of teaching. She uses visualization to help children distinguish antonyms. For example between “yes” and “no”, the mother puts things in front of her and then hides them. In order for her children to make eye contact, Ms. Van wears a mask to attract attention. Your child’s favorite toy is also used as a teaching tool, straight and then horizontally to vertically to draw attention to the eyes. Such diligence, when Sae Hae was 32 months old, she could speak for the first time.

When her son was four years old, Ms. Van discovered that her youngest son loved to doodle on paper. The mother decided to find a drawing center but couldn’t find one because Sae Hae couldn’t sit still for long. Finally, an art teacher from a nearby elementary school accepted the boy as a student.

Anh Van and Sae Hae in the parallel World exhibition, responding to World Autism Awareness Day, held on March 28, 2021 at the Goethe-Institut.  Sae Hae is one of 6 young artists whose works are on display.  Photo: Character provided

Sister Anh Van and Sae Hae in the exhibitionParallel world, in response to World Autism Awareness Day, held on March 28, 2021 at the Goethe-Institut. Sae Hae is one of 6 “young artists” whose works are on display. Photo:Characters provided

After 6 years, painting became Sae Hae’s method of communication with the world. The boy often draws on his favorite subject and delves deeply into a certain field. Having a fondness for flowers and plants, Sae Hae studied and drew dozens of flowers. There are times when I like musical instruments, so I draw all kinds of lutes, trumpets, and flutes. One day, I drew the flags of more than 50 countries around the world. Currently, he likes to draw cartoons from funny characters he came up with.

Sae Hae’s paintings are printed on towels, skirts, notebooks, bags… of To He social enterprise. He also won many first and second prizes in painting at the third prize school of Nam Tu Liem district and had paintings hanging at the Van Ho exhibition in the national painting competition in 2021.

Not only love draw a picture, Sae Hae also loves learning English and cooking. Every day, he wakes up early to cook his own breakfast with such dishes as sandwiches, omelets or fried rice. Instead of having to tutor her mother, Sae Hae can now study and do her homework alone. “I’m also in the group that does well in class,” said Ms. Van.

It’s been seven years since I learned to draw, and in addition to the desk and bed, the private room is filled with hundreds of paintings of various genres. Whether it is a scene or a person, a still life or a bustling life, Sae Hae’s paintings are always colorful and full of freshness like the soul of an 11-year-old boy.

Hien Duong

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