Expressive Arts Advocates AJ & Devin Wildes- Storytellers 2016
Articles,  Blog

Expressive Arts Advocates AJ & Devin Wildes- Storytellers 2016

So Jeffrey was a little nervous when I
sent in our presentation because i said, “So for our 12 minute presentation, here’s
our 36 slides.” So you’re going to see a lot. My presentation is a real personal
story, and I’ve titled it “The Boy Who Spoke Through His Art.” So it started when
my son Devin was born. In this picture right here he was 12 months old, and um
there’s a new baby in the audience, when you have that new baby you hold them in
your arms and you go, “This baby’s going to be the next president” or, “They’re gonna
be a football player.” You have all these dreams, and it’s amazing, but something
happened around 15 months. And you can see it, there’s no eye contact. That’s the
best picture we could ever get of him. And he started slipping away from us, and
he delved into the world of autism. And Faith did a wonderful favor for me today,
and she explained to you about a lot of what goes through a parent’s mind or
siblings mind, but overall it was a devastating loss. It was horrible. He
became a child that I couldn’t touch. I couldn’t hug. He wouldn’t look at me.
There was all these things that were happening, and I was asking these
questions: what was his life going to be like? How is he ever gonna survive? Would
he ever be normal? Would he ever love me? Will he ever let me hug him? and
would he ever grow to love me and other people? Get married, have children, and all
that? So as you go through this journey, there’s hurdles, and there’s lots of
hurdles. First of all, you have to figure out where you’re going to
get help, then there’s a year-long waiting list because at that time there
was. Sometimes 15 months long waiting lists, and then you have to figure out
how you’re going to pay for it. And at the time, insurance wouldn’t pay for it.
And then you would get a lovely speech therapist that would say to you “You know
what, he’s been here for two years in speech [therapy].
You might just have to face it Mrs. Wilde, he will never speak.” And the one
thing, the one word that I wanted him to say, was ‘mom’ and I didn’t hear it for a
very, very long time. And then of course, there’s all the fun stuff like
uncontrollable behavior. I think he got kicked out of a major league baseball
game – no- he stopped the major league baseball game, and we I think landed two
planes. So yeah there was lots of interesting stories I can tell you over
a cocktail. And then of course money! and I used to buy him shirts for
Princeton and Harvard because I say I am spending as much money as if I could
send him to Harvard, so you’re gonna wear a shirt! And that’s gonna be great! Um,
then you have people that just don’t understand what he’s going through, and
many times they think he’s just a bad child, and that you need to spank him, and
you’re a terrible mother. Finding the right doctors, and then of course I put
insurance battles in here twice, purposely, because any of you that know
it is a huge battle. Devin was the poster child for our state attorney general
suing blue cross blue shield for not covering child’s mental health care, and
we won! But as you can imagine that was short-lived.
And there was more, and we won every one. but you just have to know
you’re going to go through that. And then, of course, there’s people that just don’t
understand, and are very negative about it. And all of this gives you tons of
anxiety. And not being able to sleep at night, you’re thinking about ‘time is running out.’ They’ve told me, if he doesn’t get to a certain place
by the age of five we’re screwed. Then I got to the age of five and we hadn’t hit those
milestones and so I fell apart, and I had really good friends that said “No he’s
doing well, keep going.” Money. Right? They’re very expensive for treatment. Not
sleeping at night. Pure exhaustion. Am i doing the right thing? Am i picking the
right treatments? Is all is this going to pay off? And I sometimes felt that there was a
special show like survivor, that was like, “Autism Survivor” and that I was on this
island given this ultimate challenge like, “Here, you have to fix this child by
this amount of time, but with this amount of money. Go!” It was hard. The road
to progress was hard, and long, but I’m going to go back and quote Faith, because
she’s absolutely right. “You have to have faith.” I had to have faith that he would
speak someday, screw that speech therapist. I’m not taking what she’s going to say. You had to have a try.” At that point
there was no tribe for me, so i built a tribe. I put together a nonprofit
appearance. We had 700 families, Minnesota parents, that were all helping each other.
My tribe now is my hatch tribe, and a lot of my hatch brothers and sisters are
here today. And you need those. You need a process, and sometimes
you don’t know what the process. Sometimes you have to build the process.
So here’s Devin about eight years old, and he started doing art. And
the one thing that I kept, like, kind of ignored what he was doing with
art, because I’m like “he needs to speak, he needs to read, he needs to be functional,
he needs to get a job someday!” I don’t want him to be a starving artist on the
street! And because of his art and that unique capability, Nick came into his
life. And nick is a little boy, um, normal, who just loved Devin. He
thought he was super brilliant, and super smart, and they became friends and
actually the newspaper followed them all the way through graduation, and they
are still friends. And a lot of it was because he could see Devin’s special
strength. So I started to see that art was really incredible for him, and I
pushed it and I said let’s forget about what he’s deficient at, and let’s push
his strength. And so I changed his summer plans, instead of going to summer school,
he went to summer art camp all summer long. Which he love loved and the thing
that you can see, and you can see it in this picture, looks like that 12 month
old picture, that eye contact, right? He’s very proud. He’s very proud of his art. So
here’s a quote from a judge, that he won first prize in the da Vinci fest at his
school, which he’s competing against typical children. “This piece is why
a judge shows [up], once in a while, someone so unique and valuable shows their wor,k and
the viewer is transported to another dimension. As I studied this piece, I was
drawn into devin’s world. Devin should continue doing his work. The world
needs to know what he feels. This is only work that someone with Devin’s unique
perspective could provide. Thank you for sharing it with me. The director wrote to
me and said this judge is the hardest judge, and he’s never given a perfect
score. And he gave Devin a perfect score. He was moved to tears, so he’s crying
too, which is even better! When things like that started to happen, it was
healing. It was those things that you cherish to hear about your child that
never happened. And so today Jeffrey and PeaceLove we’re going to try an
experiment. This is going to be a first. We’re gonna have Devin come out and
talk about his art. And you’re probably not gonna understand anything he says,
and that’s okay, but try and listen with your eyes and your ears and hear what he
has to say. So here comes Devin. Hi my name is Devin. I like art. I like drawing, coloring
and painting. Check out my art show. There’s my stepmother. He’s dripping with tears. I love my sister. I paint a wood chair. I paint a tree and a pond. I make mom jewelry out of soda cans. I painted garden party and insects.The spiders get and eat the fly. I make a dinosaur out of clay. I painted a dark sky and the building of a house. He is scary. I painted an ant with dots, lines, and swirly. I make an old clock, I painted it myself. I make Donald, Daisy, Micky, Minnie, Goofy. I make a wow wow In 1969 my Dad was born. In 1972 my Mom was born. In 1994 my parents was married. In 1995 i
was born. In 2008 my Ava was born. In 2040 other man. I painted a flower garden, and the dog ran, pink, white, and purple. I make a doll. He is flying. And make dark
flower and chalkboard. Make a blue doll. He is a fighter. I make a sock maker, fix the holes in my socks. Pants. I draw a man, he is behind a tree. This is Bahamas. I painted it. This is Prometheus’s head. I made it out of clay. Thank you. This is my art show. Enjoy! Thank you! So who here thinks we should
send this videotape to that speech therapist that said he could never talk? Thank
you so much, today was all about pushing boundaries, and getting him to do more
things, and share his world. And what was unique about today, he was extremely
connected to the audience, and connected to people. That’s very hard for us to get
out of him. It’s important to tell these stories, even when they’re really
difficult and it makes you cry in front of 400 people. It’s opening yourself up.
A very vulnerable part of yourself. Just letting people experience your world a
little bit. Art is not just therapy. It’s also a
doorway into seeing into someone’s soul, your personality and their potential, and
that’s why I love so much what PeaceLove is doing. It’s obviously really
apparent in Devin’s work that that is his vehicle for speech. Speech! Speech! For
telling your voice! mm-hmm! When you gave your speech today what did it feel like?
Happy. Made you happy? Yes. What do you think the audience thought? Like it! Does
it make you feel proud? Yes proud.

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