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Patrick McCallister Shares Insights And Suggestions For Artists, Art Show Producers, And The Public. April Is Autism Awareness Month

World Autism Awareness Day (WAAD) is observed every year on April 2nd.  Patrick McCallister shares some of his insights when he attended an art show, to raise public awareness of autism. The Rickie Report includes some helpful points which enhance not only the experience for the art lover, but increase sales for the artists. WAAD highlights the need to help and improve the quality of life of those with autism so that they can lead full and meaningful lives as an integral part of society.  While we are physically distanced and our awareness is more heightened, we can learn some new behaviors when we go back to our new “normal”.

 

 

 

 

If you’ve met one person with autism, you’ve met one person with autism.

– Dr. Stephen Shore   www.autismspeaks.org

 

 

 

April   is   Autism   Awareness   Month

Awareness and Acceptance Are Good For Artists

 

 

By Patrick McCallister, With Rickie Leiter

 

 

 

To raise Autism Awareness, we must first become informed.  The aim of sharing this is to increase understanding and acceptance of people with autism, foster worldwide support and inspire a kinder, more inclusive world.

 

Patrick shares, “As Deborah and I walked onto the crowded street for the art show, I could hear myself making involuntary guttural sounds. I put in my earplugs and set a pair of industrial earmuffs over them to block almost all sound”.

 

“Fortunately that show was laid out in such a way that it minimized the amount of multi-directional pedestrian traffic I’d encounter. If it wasn’t set up like that, I couldn’t have been there. We would have left before walking into the art show, altogether. Still, throughout our visit my head was on a proverbial swivel as I nervously watched out for anyone getting too close to me. Incidental touches are more than disturbing to me — they’re painful, which is something many people find hard to believe or understand”.

 

“When I stopped to look at pieces that caught my eye, artists and other sellers started friendly, but quickly got visibly annoyed”.

“I’m used to that….”, Patrick tells The Rickie Report.

“Yeah, it’s hard for many folks to talk to me when I’ll expose just one ear, and then only partially. Yeah, it’s hard for them to understand I might not seem to be looking at them or things they’re trying to show me, but I see a lot more with peripheral sight than people realize. I can’t explain these things on the spot, so as soon as people seem annoyed I walk away to spare us all grief”.

 

“The wares of George Tortorelli, of Medicine Wind Music, caught my eye at this show. I’m a primitive flute and musical whistle player. I stopped to admire his handmade instruments. He approached, then visibly paused and slowed his hand movements. He kept his hands back as he gently gestured toward instruments while we talked. He paused when I checked behind me for people, and picked up where he was when I turned back as though it was normal interaction”.

 

“People approached his booth. My chest tightened. I was instantly ready to leave. Deborah stepped between the newcomers and me — a natural motion to other people’s eyes  – that’s a protective measure for me. George moved aside and said, ‘You can step behind my table if you want’.  I took him up on the offer. I analyzed his wares for what must have been 15 minutes. George took care of other customers on the public side of his table as I did this. I’d laid out the instruments I would choose from in an impromptu but systematic organization. Then I made my picks and my purchase. It was the only thing I bought at the show that day. George nodded to thank me. He made no attempt to shake my hand”.

 

“George wasn’t being rude. By intuition or background he picked up on the fact I’m autistic, whether by name or not, and adapted to my needs.  And he got my business! Odds are I’ll buy from him again. (I spend more time on his website than I should, looking at his gorgeous instruments. I know from owning one are also high quality)”.

 

Patrick conveys, “There’s a moral to this whole story. Awareness, acceptance, adaption, and accommodation = art sales”.

 

He adds,”It’s difficult to summarize autism, which is why “spectrum” was added to the diagnostic terminology — autism spectrum disorder. Autism is a developmental condition usually typified by weakened social drives, which often shows as social awkwardness. This is most often accompanied by other manifestations such as delayed, underdeveloped verbal communication, sensory problems, often aversion to sounds, and others, such as repeated gestures referred to as “stimming.” Some recoil from calling autism a “disorder,” and prefer terms such as “neurodiversity.” In diagnostic terms, “disorder” simply means someone’s learning or mental processing is different from norms.  

 

Some people with autism live and work autonomously with varying levels of support. Others can’t. Patrick tells us, “What makes a huge difference between an autistic adult being able to live and work independently, or needing lifelong care, is the presence or lack of an aware, accepting and accommodating society”.

 

Readers cannot take Patrick’s narrative and use it as a template for identifying other autists. He shares, ” Yes, ‘autist’ is a dictionary word for someone with autism.  If you’ve met one autist …you’ve met one autist!  There are some general clues you are talking with an autist, for example when the person seems bothered by sounds or movements. They may have a tendency to look away while speaking or have a tendency to articulate a specialized knowledge without apparent regard to social norms”.

 

Our take-away from this?

 

Fortunately it doesn’t take specialized knowledge to converse with those with autism. Watch and listen to people and follow their cues. This works for everything from affective disorders, such as depression, to anxiety disorders and mental-heath conditions such as post-traumatic stress disorder. You’ll meet people with all of these and many more, when displaying art. Throw “weird” out of your thinking and replace it with “uncommon” and let those ‘less common’ customers lead you to how to interact with, and sell to, them.

 

 

Patrick reminds us, “We love and want art, too”.

 

Patrick McCallister is a longtime journalist who was diagnosed with Asperger’s syndrome in 1993. Like a lot of people with developmental differences, he hid the diagnosis for years. Today he advocates for people with disabilities in various areas, but especially transportation.

For more information:

 

In 1970, the Autism Society launched an ongoing nationwide effort to promote autism awareness and assure that all affected by autism are able to achieve the highest quality of life possible.  In 1972, the Autism Society launched the first annual National Autistic Children’s week, which evolved into National Autism Awareness Month (NAAM). This April, we continue our efforts to spread awareness, promote acceptance, and ignite change.

The Autism Society of America, the nation’s oldest leading grassroots autism organization, is is proud to celebrate National Autism Awareness Month  in April 2020 with the its new “Celebrate Differences” campaign. Designed to build a better awareness of the signs, symptoms, and realities of autism, #CelebrateDifferences focuses on providing information and resources for  communities to be more aware of autism, promote acceptance, and be more inclusive in everyday life.

The Autism Society recognizes that the prevalence of autism in the United States has risen from 1 in 125 children in 2010 to 1 in 59 in 2020 – recognizing this continued increase, the goal for NAAM is to further increase awareness about autism signs, symptoms and opportunities through: information and referrals, events, printable and digital resources, and community partnerships with businesses and organizations dedicated to building inclusive experiences.

The Autism Society has a variety of resources designed to inform and encourage communities to celebrate differences, and become more inclusive of individuals with autism. The campaign will overlap with World Autism Awareness Day on April 2nd, and continue throughout the month. These resources will be made available on social media for sharing as well as on www.autismawarenessmonth.org for download.

 

 

Being a part of a community and feeling included is extremely important in people’s lives. Being part of a community doesn’t mean that it has to be necessarily one’s neighborhood/geographic community. People can experience and explore different communities by traveling and/or taking vacations. People can meet new people and try new things when they go to various camps or retreats. Some may find community among a religious belief they share with others.

 

There are many communities in which people can be a part of such as work and/or social communities which are centered on leisure activities or hobbies. But being a part of any of these communities does not mean simply that the individual is present. To have true community inclusion, the individual needs to be participating and accepted by the other individuals. Becoming a part of any community takes time and effort. Individuals will have to learn practices of the community and have to get accustomed to new things and people. Similarly, the members of the community will have to learn and get accustomed with the new member. Community inclusion is not always a fast process, especially when it causes people to get out of their comfort zone. But with proper supports and effort, community inclusion is extremely rewarding and life-altering.  www.autism-society.org

 

 

 

For coverage of your events, to place an advertisement, or speak to Rickie about appearing in The Rickie Report, contact:

Rickie Leiter, Publisher

Rickie@therickiereport.com   561-537-0291

17019 SW Sapri Way   Port St. Lucie, FL 34986

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