“It was no challenge getting him ready to come to it this morning,” said Die. “He mentioned a couple of times during the week that this Saturday I’m going to go to art class. Yeah, he’s excited about it.”
Die’s son Vladimir has autism and she wants to make sure that he keeps busy.
“Art has not really been his strongest thing but this is an opportunity for him to learn,” Die said. “He actually sits down and stays out for a time frame, and he is learning to express himself through drawing.”
Die stays and partakes in the activities with Vladimir. Although parents have the option to drop their children off, they are encouraged to stay.
Die is so pleased with the program that she tells everyone she knows to sign up their child.
“I have a friend of mine whose son is attending. He’s not with a disability,” said Die. “It’s like an opportunity to put [kids without disabilities] and those with disabilities together.”
Art teacher Phillip Collazo agrees with Die. He has been working with Youth Arts in the Parks for a year and a half. He has been a special education teacher for the past 12 years and is a painter. Collazo said this program embodied both his passions.
“Where else can we work with some kids that need the support that they do and give them that time and that understanding,” said Collazo. “I’m honored to be a part of that.”
He said the students are learning valuable lessons. He explained that the students are able to ask questions when they see behavior that they don’t understand.
“The students will sometimes ask questions: Why does he walk like that? And why does she speak like that?” Collazo said.
He turns those questions into teachable moments.
“When these kids interact with someone with special needs they will know how to interact with them because of this experience,’ Collazo said, who encourages people to ask questions respectfully. “I think that’s more powerful than the artwork we produce.”