March 23, 2015

ArtSpeak5Can you tell me a little about how ArtSpeak is funded?

After I wrote the concept, a dear friend and well known artist, Darryl Pottorf brought it to Robert Rauschenberg’s attention. He loved the concept. Shortly after R.R. passed, I received a call from the R.F. Foundation saying that this was R.R’s request and it would be funded as a 5 year grant. I chose the Foundation for Lee County Public Schools Inc. to take the program under their non-profit organization. It was a wonderful choice. Mr. Bower, our CEO made the transition into the school system for ArtSpeak, smooth and positive.

The grant ended after the fulfilled 5 years almost two years ago. The schools, children, administrators and parents love the program. The community currently got together to come up with funding during an event, to take it to this June. Currently a health food market, Ada’s stepped forward to help, however we need more sponsors and donations to keep it going.

How are the children referred to the program? Do they need to meet a certain criteria?

The beauty of ArtSpeak is that it is not a treatment program rather it’s an enrichment program. Every year I get together with the Autism Dept. at our school system and we decide on 5 schools with an autism population. Every year we come up with different schools, although some schools love it so much they ask for another year. There are no referrals; rather I serve the students with ASD from pre-K up in the schools planned for that year.

How often do the children access ArtSpeak and how big are the class sizes?

Every school has one day a week and every class has a set schedule when I arrive. The class size varies from 9 to 13 students.

ArtSpeak3What has your experience been with the children? How do they progress over the course of the sessions?

In all of my years in mental health, I have never seen more progress in such a short period of time than with this program. While it is not a therapy program, the results are amazing, I mean it. Within the framework of being in the classroom (that was Marshall Bower, my CEO’s idea) these children start to blossom. So many times they run to the teacher to show their work. This positive feeling they experience transcends into their next responsibility in school. They always say “can I take it home?” Many times, children refuse to touch different art materials. After a couple of months, they are not even phased if paint, glue, glitter gets on them. During ArtSpeak, they problem solve, come up with great ideas … and smile, lots of smiles.

Is ArtSpeak incorporated into the rest of the child’s curriculum?

No, it is not a part of their curriculum as it is not a part of their treatment plan, however the teacher schedules a set time for the program.

What feedback have you received from parents and indeed teachers?

I have so many testimonials from teachers, parents, autism administrators and the children through the years. I have every one of them.

pink clay dino (2)Nina ends with the following message.

I never imagined how effective and wonderful this special program is. I am so passionate about ArtSpeak. If we don’t find more funding, this program will end in June. My passion would be for it to continue. If this program found more funding, I could train others, that’s really my dream. This program is universal, it has no language boundaries.

If anyone is interested in knowing more about the program regarding on how to donate or obtain further information, this information can be found on the ArtSpeak website.

We would very much like to thank Nina for taking the time out of her busy schedule to chat with us. We wish ArtSpeak great success and look forward to catching up with them again soon.

About the author 

Jo Worgan

Jo Worgan is a published author, writer and blogger. She has a degree in English Literature. She writes about life with her youngest son who is on the autistic spectrum. Jo tweets (@mummyworgan) and is also a freelance columnist for the Lancaster Guardian. ‘My Life with Tom, Living With Autism‘ is her second book and a culmination of her blog posts, and available on Kindle now, along with her first book, Life on the Spectrum. The Preschool years.

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