""
UC Davis Medicine - Logo
The institution's principal publication for alumni, friends and physicians.
""
Horizontal boundary
""
""
"" "" ""
  F E A T U R E S  
"" "" ""
"" ""
"" "" ""
"" ""
"" "" ""
""  
"" "" ""
   
"" "" ""
   
"" "" ""
Vertical Seperator Line
Summer 2003 Issue
""
FEATURES
""
 
""

REACHING INTO THE SOUL OF AUTISM

 "" PHOTO -- Art consultant Susan Willoughby helped put together a significant collection of artwork for UC Davis
M.I.N.D. Institute, including an oil painting by Andrew Stamm.  ""
  Art consultant Susan Willoughby helped put together a significant collection of artwork for UC Davis M.I.N.D. Institute, including an oil painting by Andrew Stamm, above.  
"" "" ""

Jonathan Lerman's parents didn't expect much of an emotional reaction from him when his grandfather died five years ago. Not that he wasn't old enough to understand the loss — he was 10 years old — but because he is affected by autism.

Since the age of 2, Jonathan has exhibited little capacity to express his feelings. But when Jonathan began rapidly drawing a passionate portrait of himself crying shortly after his grandfather's death, his parents were astounded.

Jonathan's mother, Caren Lerman, recalls the experience as remarkable. For years, she had dealt with a child unable to verbally communicate or relate to others — hallmark symptoms of the often-frustrating neurodevelopmental disorder. Now, she was seeing in vivid detail the pain her son was experiencing.

Since Jonathan's first experience with charcoal, he has continued to use his art as an avenue for self-expression. Quickly recognized with ability to create strong, emotional portraits that border on caricature, Jonathan stands alone among recognized artists with autism in that his work is focused on faces — faces filled with emotion. As shown in the recently published book "Jonathan Lerman: Drawings by an Artist with Autism," his drawings, whether in charcoal or pastel, typically portray highly asymmetrical faces with startling qualities.

 "" PHOTO -- Jonathan Lerman is recognized in the art community for creating strong portraits that border on caricature of faces filled with immense emotion.  ""
  Jonathan Lerman is recognized in the art community for creating strong portraits that border on caricature of faces filled with immense emotion.  
"" "" ""

An example of Jonathan's work can now be found at the UC Davis M.I.N.D. Institute's new facilities. The institute, devoted to the study of autism and other neurodevelopmental disorders, has assembled a significant collection of artwork created by 36 children and adults. The majority of the artists, ranging in ages from 5 years old to 86 years old, have autism or Asperger's syndrome, a higher functioning form of autism. A few of the artists have learning disabilities, including severe dyslexia or attention deficithyperactivity disorder. Some of the artists, like Jonathan, have been identified as being in the rare category of autistic savants, where they demonstrate an exceptional level skill and understanding in a particular area — in this case, art.

The 63 pieces of art — pencil drawings, charcoal, watercolors and oil paintings — are on permanent display in the recently opened M.I.N.D. Institute buildings. A number of the pieces are also featured on the M.I.N.D. Institute Web site at www.mindinstitute.org.

Jonathan's charcoal drawing in the M.I.N.D. exhibit portrays a woman's face — half of which seems fraught with worry, the other half of which reveals dark shadows beneath an eye and evidence of fatigue. She is clutching a small boy tightly between both hands. One can't help but wonder if this is how Jonathan sees his mother, caught up in all of her concerns in caring for him.

"Art is a beautiful form of communication and for many individuals with autism who live in utter isolation from the rest of the world, it is one of the few ways that they are able to be brilliantly expressive," said Robert Hendren, executive director of the M.I.N.D. Institute. "The pieces on display are positive reminders of the potential for people with this disorder."

Autism is a complex and severe developmental disorder that affects a persons ability to communicate, form relationships with others and respond appropriately to their environment. Children typically do not engage in social play or games with their peers. Those affected may also avoid making eye contact and lack the ability to read faces for signs of emotion or other cues, making it all the more impressive to see how Jonathan's portraits convey so much emotional detail.

For Jonathan's parents, his art has finally given them a window into his soul and what's happening inside of him.

""
Vertical Seperator Line
"" "" ""
  "Art is a beautiful form of communication and for many individuals with autism who live in utter isolation from the rest of the world, it is one of the few ways that they are able to be brilliantly expressive."  -Robert Hendren  
""   Vertical Seperator Line "" "" "" ""
"" "" Vertical Seperator Line
""
""

UC DAVIS SCHOOL OF MEDICINE
PUBLIC AFFAIRS
4900 Broadway, Suite1200
Sacramento, California 95820

ucdavismedicine@ucdmc.ucdavis.edu

© 2003 UC Regents. All rights reserved.

"" "" ""