Mikey Allcock, A Talented Painter And Pianist

Nadia Shanab | autism, general advice, parenting, tips
21 Apr 2015

Here is one more example of a gifted and talented teenager on the autism spectrum. I don’t believe it is just a coincidence, that individuals with ASD enjoy artistic brilliance and skills!
Mikey, a 16 year old teenager, was nonverbal until the age of 10, then gradually started talking. At school age, he couldn’t attend special education schools for more than four years, then became home-schooled. Sitting in front of books looking at words in classrooms was very frustrating for him. The school setup was not right for Mikey.
Even though professionals didn’t give Mikey’s parents any hope when he was first diagnosed with autism at the age of 17 months, he started to unveil his area of strength later on.
At the age of 12 he started playing piano, and became a skillful pianist. He plays Beethoven and Mozart as an expert. In addition, he became a part-time student in mainstream.
At the age of 16 he started to paint. His favorite things to paint are train stations (mind he lives in the U.K.), cathedrals, churches, high buildings and towers. His paintings are absolutely stunning.

Here are some tips for both, parents and educators:

  • Professionals’ opinions are not verdicts. They try to do their best, but since what causes autism still remains a mystery, nobody can tell exactly in which direction a child with ASD will develop. Try to stay hopeful, no matter what!
  • When schools prove to be the wrong placement for a child, parents should simply move on and consider other options. Homeschooling is a great choice, if possible. County programs could be another option.  Non-academic schools relying on developing personal skills are great outlets as well.
  • Physical activities, like walking, running, bouncing a basket ball, help channel a lot of frustration, and open doors for talents to emerge.
  • Allow the child to explore different kinds of activities: physical, cultural, art, social (like board games or having play dates with other kids to get used to different people, places, experiences,…) Always try exposure to new settings.
  • Make sure children get in contact with nature regularly. Mikey learned about painting big towers and cathedrals because he was exposed to climbing mountains. Being close to the nature helps revealing concealed skills and spark off talents. Spending time at the beach, rivers, lakes, woods, farms, or a even the neighborhood park, can be a door opener to new horizons.
  • Individuals on the autism spectrum are very visual. They rely on this capability to understand their surrounding world and act upon accordingly. So let’s use this strength to communicate with them, teach them, and help them discover their talents.

There is a lot of resemblance between Iris Grace, Stephen Wiltshire, Chris Murray, and now Mikey. They all have autism, they were nonverbal as young kids, they all enjoy an artistic talent. My personal interpretation is that their talent whether it’s painting,drawing, or playing music, is a means of communication with the outside world. Through their art they are able to express themselves without having to talk. In order to overcome their verbal deficiency, they resort to their internal resources to bring out their precious hidden treasures to share with us.

Educators, please allow enough time on your daily schedule for an arts and crafts session. It doesn’t have to be very long, but let the children try different materials, techniques, and ideas.

If you know that your student enjoys artistic skills, use it as an incentive. You can also use it when you feel that she/he is becoming non-cooperative, and save yourself and the class a meltdown.

Nadia Shanab