Tips For Aspergers and HFA Students Who Are Considering Attending College

My 'high functioning autistic' son needs help finding a job? He is really interested in art and is an excellent artist - a God-given talent. He has never gone to school and he is awesome. But I wanted him to go into that field and he is a little scared, he says that college is too hard. He doesn't really understand what I am trying to explain to him about taking just a few classes. I really think that he should pursue a career in that area. Any suggestions on how I can get him to follow that gift?

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Anonymous said...

Both for neurotypical kids and those with spectrum disorders, many people outside the art field are too quick to dismiss art as a career option without exploring all of the possibilities and understanding just how good of an option it can be. If you have talent, the profitable avenues are more numerous than it might seem.

Commercial art might eventually be an option -- if you believe your son would be willing and able to apply his talent to solve the visual communication problems of ~others~. As a freelancer, perhaps a rep (a loving family member) could interface with the clients and minimize the social demands ... and email communication could also be used (lots of Aspies do better with written communication). There are lots of options for technosaavy artists ... where their talent and drive and focus might offset what other's perceive as "eccentricities" (which are common and even seen as prerequisite in artists) and where they don't have to have high pressure social demands like presenting to clients.

If your son is too into his own vision to use his talents to serve others (this issue isn't limited to artists with spectrum disorders -- fine artists work for themselves for a reason and lots of commercial artists torture their coworkers and clients when they can't compromise their "vision"), there are still lots of other avenues. Graphic novels are big now, as are comics. You just have to get out there and look for applications. Check out sites like etsy.com for inspriration. Talk to good schools. Talk to people in the field to brainstorm and to get a heads up about what the challenges and opportunities might be for e your son. Lead with samples of his work.

People are too quick to dismiss creative professions when their kids are atistically inclined, but if you are talented, it's not all hand-to-mouth. Far from it.

Also, depending on your son's level of ability ... maybe teaching special needs art or art therapy could eventually be an option?

Good Luck!

Anonymous said...

I should also add that while art education/art therapy would require schooling and degrees, I have known many visual artists in various parts of the field that were very successful with not too much schooling. That is one advantage ... talent and experience and know how trump degrees. I remember my creative director intviewing a kid with an MFA once and the other art director and I at the agency were very impressed with her credentials -- until my boss commented that her extra degress were actually a liability in her mind. That there was a suggestion of perfectionism and a lack of real world experience that might be a PIA in a job where there were other priorities. My point is ... there is more than one way to build a portfolio. And your son might fit in in certain schools and studios better than he thinks.

Elizabeth said...

I would just add to the brief mention of "have a mentor nearby" (#9) that you may be able to get a peer mentor/friend assigned from either the psychology department, education department, or even nursing or medical department. These would be students interested in interacting with Aspergers clients later in their life and may have a vested interest in developing a relationship and potentially leadership role with a self-identified Aspie.

thatonewolf said...

As an aspie adult graphic designer I can say that lynda.com has helped me a lot. They have web video "classes" which consist of sets of videos which let you earn certificates. It's around $25 a month, and they teach all different types of graphic design programs.

I also have an associates degree, and the college process helped me learn around some of my aspergers problems, but the lynda classes will at least help him learn what he likes to do, and something might click.

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