Teaching the Autistic Artist: A Journey of Discovery through Classroom Integration

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One of the challenges of teaching (at any level) is to understand how students access and process information. Every student is different. What are their most active senses? Do they respond to auditory stimulus more than visual or tactile stimulus? A teacher’s understanding of how students process the world and what they think about their experience-the opinions they form about it—helps to promote effective learning for both student and teacher. But what of the autistic student? Much has been written about autism. The question this paper addresses concerns the development of a relationship between teacher (not clinically trained in teaching autistic students) and a talented artist and student with Autism Spectrum Disorder (ASD). Can effective teaching and learning transact? Through an experimental arts program, the author and department chair discusses the challenge of integrating autism into the mainstream university classroom. The template course: the Art of the Visual Journal teaches students to document their lives-daily-as they live it. The focus is on the development of “self.” Students understand who they are as defined by what they do. They are the lives they live. Part of that understanding is their relationship with each other and to appreciate their diversity. For the author, developing a relationship with an autistic student of enormous talent—gaining insight into an often confusing internal world, and integrating that experience into the mainstream classroom is both challenging and richly rewarding.


Keywords: Teaching the Autistic Artist, Experimental Arts Program, Development of “Self”
Stream: Special Education, Learning Difficulties, Disability
Presentation Type: 30 minute Paper Presentation in English
Paper: A paper has not yet been submitted.


Prof. Scott Gordley

Professor, Department of Art and Design
College of the Arts, Montclair State University

Upper Montclair, NJ, USA

Scott Gordley graduated with an MFA from Tufts University. He is currently Chair of the Department of Art & Design at Montclair State University. His work appears in many public and private collections and has been exhibited in solo and group shows throughout the United States and Austria. In 1999 a 20-year retrospective of his work was held in Vienna, Austria. In 1998 Gordley was awarded a National Endowment for the Arts grant in conjunction with the Connecticut Commission on the Arts to produce a documentary on the civil rights movement entitled Voices of Change with participation from Julian Bond, chairman of the NAACP and the Reverend Jesse Jackson. He is in the permanent collection of The American Soviet Theater Initiative in Moscow, the Swedish Royal Theater, HUD headquarters in Washington DC, Ringling School of Art, Eugene O'Neill Theater Center, and the J.B. Speed Museum among many others. In addition to painting Mr.Gordley is a talented saxophonist appearing on numerous recordings with jazz & blues artists such as Little Anthony, Johnny MacLeod, and the Gamma Rays. He currently plays with Rattle Head recording artists Erik Narwhal & the Manatees when not touring with his own jazz trio: the Scott Gordley Trio.

Ref: L09P1240