“I love being a designer of all things! Everything is design!”- Elayna Spratley
I thought it appropriate to begin this post with a quote from one of my dearest friends and godmother to my babies. I have known Elayna for over ten years now and she has been a tremendous support to my family and me. The strength and joy for life she demonstrates on an everyday basis is inspirational and I am so blessed to have someone like her in my corner. After I had my son almost 8 years ago, I asked her to be the godmother to my children, a role that she has excelled in. Honestly, y’all I couldn’t have chosen a better woman of God to be a mother-figure to these crazy kids.
In case you don’t know by now, my son, Noah, has Autism. He was two when he was diagnosis and me being me, I automatically began worrying for his future. As parents, we all have aspirations for what we want our children to be, the kind of people they become, and we all want them to find happiness and success. I was raised in a household with two educated parents who encouraged me to pursue my education first and foremost; that it was the key to success… the only key to real success (whatever that is). And so, I always believed that to be successful, one must have certain educational backgrounds, certifications, qualifications, experiences, and careers. So, when I heard the “A” word, I immediately thought to myself: “What can he possibly do for a living with a possible educational/mental disability? How will he ever find success through these obstacles? Can I be the kind of parent he needs find success?” And through the years, even as I learned more about Autism and continued to push for services that will support Noah as he grows, I still had that fear that somehow, my child will always be considered “less than capable” of achieving greatness.
Then it happened. Well, not so much in an instant as it began to emerge over about a year or so. Norman and I noticed that Noah doodled…a lot. He doodled during class, he doodled during homework, he doodled during playtime. He enjoyed reading comic books and learning more about super heroes. He tended to be attracted to books with bold, vivid illustrations and often spent more time studying the drawings in his books, then to actually reading the passages. He’s always been a visual kid. In fact, when he was being evaluated for Autism, his visual-spatial skills were advanced for his age. He’d always been good at taking things apart and putting them together. He enjoys Lego building and puzzles. This didn’t surprise me. Norman is an outstanding artist and his younger brother might even be a bit better (shh don’t tell him I said that!) My mom also has some artistic talent. So it’s in the genes. When we moved to Colorado, Norman invested in Noah’s first sketch pad which he promptly filled in about a week or so. We bought Noah quality crayons, colored pencils, and markers which he only uses in his sketch pads. As the doodling got more and more detailed, we decided to look into art classes. I wanted so badly for Noah to have something to do other than therapy and school. Giving him an outlet that would encourage his creativity and nurture his skills was key to discovering what his purpose just might be.
Most people who know Noah will agree that he isn’t the most talkative kid. He struggles with using words correctly and with articulation and that has contributed a bit to his shyness. But when he draws, he is able to communicate as clearly as you and me. For a kid who gets easily frustrated with most things, drawing is something in which he shows the most patience and perseverance. He is okay with making a mistake in class, knowing that he can always try again. THIS IS A BIG DEAL, you guys!!! When Noah merely thinks something might be challenging… he shuts down. Boom, done. But because he loves drawing and creating so much, he either doesn’t feel that frustration OR he refuses to let it affect him. His confidence has improved so much since discovering art. And that’s all I really want for Noah… to truly believe he can do whatever he wants to do. To know that he IS capable! My son is capable!
This past week I spoke to Elayna on the phone. She is a designer of all kinds… with her next venture being fashion. I know her best as a photographer who was there on my wedding day and captured the some of the first moments we shared as a family when Noah was born. I told her that we had put Noah in art classes and she rejoiced at the news. She said, “Robin, everything is art… everything is design. Everything we enjoy has to start somewhere, and that somewhere is often in a designer’s notebook.” She encouraged me to keep nurturing Noah’s creativity and talent and that regardless of what obstacles Autism might bring, he will continue to find his voice and his strength in the pages of that sketch book. I must say…Noah is incredibly lucky to have such a force in his life… and so am I.