Danny joined E4C ArtStart when he was just 6 years old, meeting the youngest age requirement for ArtStart. Danny also has autism. His mother was looking for programming for Danny, so he could gain valuable social experiences.
On his first day, Danny was having a hard time transitioning. He was unable to make eye contact with volunteers or students. He had brought a favorite toy, which he gave all his attention to. His mother attended the class with him and worked a craft with Danny while the instructors introduced themselves to him. The staff could tell that the new place and the people overwhelmed him, so they gently encouraged him to participate in whatever way he was comfortable.
As the weeks went by, small differences and improvements started to appear. The first sign was Danny’s interest in another little boy in the class. They developed camaraderie and would work on their projects together. Danny also began to share his precious toy with his classmates. If he became overwhelmed he would still turn to face the wall or hide in a corner but his mother stayed on-site and would help him get back into the swing of the class.
The volunteers gained his trust and he began responding to their questions and following along with things shown to him. The tactility of the projects proved to be beneficial for Danny and on the last class before the winter break he was legitimately excited about the project and was laughing along with his friend.
ArtStart is the only program that Danny’s single mother can afford to place him in. It has provided him with the opportunity of healthy social interaction, a safe environment to build secure relationships, and the chance to learn about art through play, while developing his fine motor skills and creativity. Danny’s family is just one example of the way that E4C ArtStart can assist in providing better quality of life for some of Edmonton’s least reached populations through free arts-based programming.