Unlocking Artistic Talent in Children with Autism: A Journey of Love and Support

The art exhibition titled “Bianglala Seribu Imajinasi” (Ferris Wheel of a Thousand Imaginations) held at Bentara Budaya Jakarta showcased an array of captivating paintings, among which stood Anugrah Fadly, a talented artist with autism, beaming with pride. Anugrah’s artwork, titled “Pendidikan Robot” (Robot Education, 2023), depicted a magnificent droid surrounded by vibrant houses, symbolizing the omnipresence of the Zoom app during the COVID-19 pandemic. In just two hours, Anugrah had brought his imagination to life on a 100×70-centimeter canvas. His father, Samodro, proudly shared this remarkable achievement during an interview with The Jakarta Post.

Despite his autism, Anugrah, at the age of 25, recently graduated with honors from the Indonesia Institute of Arts (ISI) in Yogyakarta. His artistic abilities extend beyond painting, including clay, wood, stone, and metal sculptures. Anugrah’s journey to success is a testament to the pivotal role played by parents in supporting and nurturing the talents of children with autism.

Melly Budhiman, a psychiatrist and co-founder of the Indonesia Autism Foundation (YAI), emphasized the significance of parental love, acceptance, and support in helping children with autism discover and develop their talents. Raising children with autism and fostering their artistic abilities is undoubtedly a challenging task for parents. Sofwan Farisyi, the father of the teenage artist Muhammad Salman Farisyi, shared his experiences during a talk show at Bentara Budaya Jakarta. He mentioned that many parents have faced the heart-wrenching situation of being summoned to schools only to be told that their children cannot cope with regular education and must be expelled. Sofwan highlighted the importance of unwavering parental belief in their children’s potential and the ability to transform their weaknesses into strengths.

In 2020, Sofwan introduced art as a therapeutic outlet to his son, Salman, who immediately fell in love with it. The young artist began painting various objects from his surroundings, with a particular fascination for sakura trees that he encountered during a trip to Japan. Sakura trees soon became Salman’s signature style, leading him to display his artwork in multiple exhibitions, including a solo show at the Grand Sahid Jaya Hotel in Jakarta in December 2022. Furthermore, Japanese artists specializing in sakura trees invited Salman to exhibit his works alongside them at the Kyoto Art exhibition this year.

The achievements of Anugrah and Salman may appear fascinating, but they are the result of years of commitment, hard work, and the unwavering support of their loving parents. Recognizing the significance of early detection in managing autism, Melly stressed the need for parents to remain vigilant during their children’s early developmental stages. Timely consultations with doctors regarding any developmental delays can pave the way for appropriate therapies and the maximization of the children’s capabilities. Art therapy has proven to be highly effective for children with autism, as it allows them to express their ideas and emotions visually. Drawing, in particular, aids in calming their minds and fostering focus.

According to art tutor Timotius Suwarsito, commonly known as Kak Toto, introducing children with autism to various art media from an early age is crucial. Allowing them to explore clay, crayons, pencils, and paints helps identify the medium in which they feel most joyous and willingly engage for an extended period. It is within these preferred art forms that their true talents often lie.