By Anna-Marie Menhenott
TREASURE COAST -- Most of the time, children on the autism spectrum are misunderstood. There's never enough time, resources or patience to give these special children the quality of care they deserve. They sometimes get lost in the shuffle between special education classes and mainstream classrooms.
However, a newly formed nonprofit housed in Jensen Beach is giving these children an outlet.
Arts for Autism of the Treasure Coast, founded by Rachel Selph of Port St. Lucie, offers art classes as a way for autistic children to express themselves.
Each of the classes, which are held several times throughout the week, are taught by a group of trained volunteers. The children are encouraged to express themselves with paint, glitter and glue and at the end of each session, have a product to be proud of.
"Children on the autism spectrum are usually very visual," Ms. Selph said. "We have children who range from very high functioning to some who don't speak at all. Each one are paired with a volunteered and helped to express the ideas that are living in their heads."
The organization has specialized ways to get each child engaged in the activities. Each participant, depending on their level of functioning, absorbs the instructions and creates works of art that are then placed on the walls of the facility.
"We let the children hang their paintings wherever they want to," Ms. Selph said. "Some of them are hanging upside down and some are crooked, but it's all part of how the students express themselves."
Some of the works of art will be framed and sold at an upcoming fundraiser.
"We are trying to raise money for art supplies and for generally keeping the nonprofit afloat. There's no paid staff, and all of the art instructors are here voluntarily because they either have a child on the autism spectrum or because they love the idea of helping these wonderful children."
Parents who bring their child to the art classes have an opportunity to network and talk about ideas that have helped with dealing with the sometimes frustrating life with an autistic child.
"It can be trying," said Ms. Selph, whose daughter was diagnosed with autism. "It can be hard on the parent and the child, so whenever there's a chance to talk to someone who knows what you're going through and who you can bounce ideas off, it helps."
There is a waiting list for children to participate in the class. However, if there are more volunteers and more art supplies, more children will be able to benefit from the program.
Art supplies can be dropped off every Saturday to Arts for Autism of the Treasure Coast, located at 2317 N.W. Federal Highway, in Jensen Beach. For more information, call (772) 260-6941.