I’m 21, a junior Motion Design major at Ringling College of Art and Design, and the only sister to an older brother with low-verbal autism.
I am just finishing the long winter break with my cousins, and had an especially good time with Anthony. Over Thanksgiving, he had seen my cousin Savanna star in a school play, and sat riveted while he listened to her sing. My parents were very nervous to bring him, fearing he would not sit quietly for the performance. They made their usual deal to take turns walking him in the lobby if Anthony got restless. He did so well, when I came home for winter break, we saw two movies in the theater. One was “The Polar Express” in 4D, and “Star Wars: The Force Awakens” in 3D. He sat quietly for both, and it made me so happy.
During October, I was asked to paint a mural for the Education Foundation of Sarasota County. This was to promote a fundraising event for all the Special Education students, and I was honored to help. It was a very rewarding experience I will remember for the rest of my life. The event organizer Matt Bruback was so supportive of my schedule as a student, and very appreciative of my work. He developed a sensory belt known as the “Miracle Belt” to cope with an athletic injury, but found that it had calming benefits for people with special needs. The mural was only up for ten days, but a time lapse film was made to preserve the mural forever. Anthony calls it “Natalie Painting Fast”.
My entire fall semester had been tremendously busy, but well worth the effort. My faculty review was remarkable. They said that I was excelling in everything important to motion design, and the whole department was proud of me. That made up for so many hardships during the semester. I was overjoyed. One piece very important to me that the faculty loved was done for Experimental Animation.
We were to emulate the work of an experimental artist. I chose for inspiration a film by Chris Landreth about experimental animator Ryan Larkin. The visuals, while dark, were compelling and raw. They illustrated inner thoughts and feelings during conversations about Larkin’s career as well as the intentions of the interviewer. I could not get the images out of my head, and wanted to use that technique to talk about a defining moment in my life as a sibling. I wanted the project to be an honest reflection of me and meet my teachers’ expectations. I was very happy my teacher loved my execution of these ideas. The wonderful faculty review was a perfect way to start winter break.
On a fun note, Anthony and I made a little film together. He taught himself a dance from Fresh Prince of Bel-Air, and proceeded to show me at Thanksgiving. None of us knew about this dance until he started up the music and jumped right in. I made it a goal to record him and me over the winter break.
It felt so good to be able to go out as a family and see movies and just be silly with my cousins. My parents have been treating him for his gut inflammation with oil of peppermint, and it seems to be helping. It was so much fun seeing his options open up. There’s still a lot of restlessness and echolalia to deal with, but every successful outing gives me hope. Spring semester is about to begin, and these memories will keep me inspired through June.
Natalie Palumbo is Contributing Editor to Age of Autism.