Art helps to calm these special-needs kids
Kids with disabilities show their talent at annual art competition
Alexandra Ming was not yet two years old when she was diagnosed with Autism Spectrum Disorder (ASD).
ASD is a developmental disorder inclusive of a spectrum of skills, symptoms and levels of disability. People with ASD would face various social and behavioural difficulties.
When Alexandra turned four, her mother, Mrs Marian Main enrolled her at the Very Special Arts (VSA) Singapore for art lessons.
Alexandra, now 15, developed her passion for the arts over the years and won the second prize in the youth category for VSA's 14th Annual Art Competition held in August.
Her winning piece, Free To Express, is a watercolour painting that her mother believes to be of sea corals.
Alexandra Ming posing with her painting which won the second prize in the youth category at the Very Special Arts (VSA) 14th Annual Art Competition. TNP PHOTO: CHOO CHWEE HUA
The family of six - Mrs Main, her husband, two older sons and an adopted daughter - would go on trips to Phuket and Bali every year, where Alexandra enjoys exploring the beach and ocean.
"She has a weak hand grip and we used to send her to occupational therapy once a week when she was five or six," Mrs Main, a 56-year-old housewife, told The New Paper.
Despite her disability, picking up the crayon or paint brush came naturally for Alexandra.
"Painting helps her to calm down and release frustration. She would go up to four or five paintings in a day sometimes," Mrs Main said.
"I found out she loves to express herself in colour. When she draws in yellow, she's happy. Black means she's sad or angry."
Mrs Main is especially thankful for the Special Needs Trust Company, a government trust fund that aids persons with special needs.
"I'm hoping people would know and appreciate people with special needs more," she said.
Noah Tan, who won the third prize in the youth category, has mild to moderate ASD as well.
Noah Tan and his mother, Madam Rosy Wang, posing with Noah winning artwork. TNP PHOTO: CHOO CHWEE HUA
ASD causes Noah, 15, to have a short attention span, making him hyperactive.
But when it comes to art, Noah is able to work on a piece for hours at a time.
His mother, housewife Rosy Wang, 49, told TNP: "He doesn't get distracted a lot. Once he gets painting, he's all calm and cool. Sometimes, he even wakes up at 8am to paint."
Noah started painting when he was 10 and Madam Wang has donated about 40 of his paintings to his school, Rainbow Centre - Margaret Drive School.
"Painting makes me feel happy and relaxed," Noah said.
His pieceMy Teacher, My Superhero is a portrait of his teacher, Miss Siti Marliza.
Noah said: "I made the art for teacher Marliza for Teachers' Day. It took me two days."
Noah was diagnosed with autism at two years old, but Madam Wang, who initially did not know what autism was, never gave up on him.
Recalling his growing-up years, she said that bringing Noah up was not easy and even frustrating at times.
With tears in her eyes, she said: "I'm very thankful for all the people who have helped him along the way.
"I'm proud of him for all his achievements, he's come a long way."
At an art exhibition curated by the school and Deloitte Singapore, nine of Noah's paintings were auctioned to raise funds for his school. They brought in about $21,000.
Madam Wang said she appreciates VSA's comprehensive art programmes and countless platforms for exposure, as well as their dedicated and patient teachers and volunteers who contributed to Noah's progress and achievements.
In the child category, Ryan Koh, eight, who has ASD, won the top prize with a poster coloured artwork, My Ideal Car.
Ryan Oh, 8, diagnosed with Autism Spectrum Disorder, proudly posing with his winning artwork titled "My Ideal Car." TNP PHOTO: CHOO CHWEE HUA
The young avid collector of toy cars told TNP that the artwork is of his dream car and he hopes to ride it one day.
His grandfather, Mr Simon Koh, 65, told TNP that Ryan started colouring when he was four.
"It's hard for him to sit still, he's so hyperactive. But when his grandma found out (that he liked colouring), she would give him blank paper to keep him busy and he would sit still and colour," he said.
"When his teacher showed us his drawing, I was shocked. I was very proud, I never expected that he can do such fantastic colouring that seems to be of professional standard."
Mr Koh said that Ryan did not need a lot of work on each piece and the winning entry took him only half an hour to create.
Housewife Danielle Lai, 38, who visited the VSA art exhibition on Friday(Sept 23), said she did not expect the artworks to have been drawn by people with special needs.
She said: "At one glance, I didn't think it was drawn by kids with disabilities. Some special needs people have a more acute sense of how they see things... they're more intuitive sometimes."
"Some special needs people have a more acute sense of how they see things."
- Housewife Danielle Lai, who who visited the Very Special Arts art exhibition on Friday
About the competition
The Very Special Arts (VSA) 14th Art Competition is an annual art competition that encourages children and young people with disabilities to express themselves in the form of art.
The theme of this year's competition was Make a Wish, Make a Change and each artwork shows the artist's aspirations, dreams and wishes for the future.
The 17 winning artworks were selected by the judging panel of professional curator Patricia Levasseur de la Motte, founder and director of museum consultancy Acacee; artist and illustrator Soh Ee Shaun; and Mr Tommy Lim, head of SPH CreativeLAB.
Singapore Press Holdings made a donation to support VSA's cause to showcase works of talented disabled artists.
The works have been displayed at the art exhibition, held at Forum Shopping Mall Atrium, from Sept 23. The exhibition will run daily from 10am to 9pm, until Oct 2.