By Darold Treffert, MD
Amanda LaMunyon's "Castle on a Cloud" and "Field of Sunflowers" grace the walls of the Treffert Center and her story is included in Dr. Treffert's book, Islands of Genius. Reading at age 4 and painting at age 7, Amanda was diagnosed with Asperger syndrome when she was 8 years old. But Amanda had a hard time staying in school; she could repeat all the rules but had a hard time adhering to them. She simply couldn’t sit still.
Important to Amanda's story is her mother's early interest in finding a creative outlet for Amanda. Sherry LaMunyon thought that maybe the spark of artistic talent, if nourished, might help with some of the troublesome behaviors, and might provide a way for Amanda to express herself as well. Mom sought out a teacher for Amanda, a gentle, patient woman with a sweet smile who admitted to Mom she had never taught a 7 year old; her students were mostly adults.
The session, at her teacher’s home, was two hours long. Mom fretted about what might be happening in those two hours. As it turned out, some wonderful things happened. When Mom came to pick up her daughter both she and the teacher were dripping with paint. Amanda led her mom proudly to some paintings she had done—some watermelons. They were beautiful. And the teacher—“This girl can paint!” she exclaimed.
“Thankfully I found that I could paint, and I learned to focus of something I loved,” Amanda said. She discovered she had the ability to help others when she gave one of her paintings to a former teacher who had cancer and later learned that it had greatly lifted her spirits when she was dying. “I couldn’t believe something I and done meant so much,” she said. “This changed the entire direction of my life.”
Now in her twenties, Amanda has touched many lives by sharing her story through art. She is the recipient of both state and national awards for community service in fundraising efforts for autism research and children's health.
Learn more about Amanda LaMunyon at https://amandalamunyon.com/
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Hosseini, D. Artism: The art of autism.
Mullin, J., Grandin, T., Barth, D., & Petrovich, A. (2014). Drawing autism
Treffert, D. A., & Tammet, D. (2012). Islands of genius: The bountiful mind of the autistic, acquired, and sudden savant.