Facing The Puzzle – (The Epic – Issue 7)

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Students struggle. Struggle with homework, parents, sport and jobs. According to the US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), one is 88 children are diagnosed and struggle with autism.

April is Autism Awareness month. There are an estimated two million people diagnosed with Autism in the United States. Autism is classified a learning disability but several students have found areas in which they excel.

Senior Jake Elliott has been participating in band since fifth grade. Two years ago he travelled to London with the band and performed in the New Years Day parade.

“I play percussion, bass drum, tenor, and snare drum. The games are really fun because you get to play shows in front of everybody,” Elliott said

Elliott said his favorite part about being in the band has been being able to perform.

Autismspeaks.org, a leader is autism research and awareness, recently reported that there is no single genetic or medical cause of for autism. Science attributes most cases of autism to a combination of genetic risk and environmental factors that influence early brain development. Scientists have found more than 100 genes are autism risk genes.

There are a wide range of degrees of Autism, from trouble in social interaction to verbal and nonverbal communication as well as the need for repetitive behaviors.  Autism comes from a lack of development in the brain, the most obvious symptoms of autism are recognized between 12 to 18 months.

Junior Casey Martin, has been drawing for 10 years.

“Casey couldn’t grip a crayon or pencil well at all for the first several years of his life, so we took him for weeks of special therapy and when he was in kindergarten or first grade he learned to grip and write better. By second grade, Casey’s teachers reported that he was a ‘wonderful artist’ with ‘beautiful handwriting.’ Since then, Casey has drawn almost everyday,” Lee Martin, Casey’s mom, said.

In school Casey struggles with perfectionism.

“Casey will erase and redo something like a comma many times until it is perfect,” Lee said.

But if you ask Casey about his cartoons he’ll give you detailed descriptions of the characters and their storylines.

“My favorite thing to draw is Stitch’s girlfriend, Angel, because she was designed to turn people evil with her siren song, but decides she has feelings for Stitch in the end. In the new anime series, she is shown as a singer who travels the world by storm. So my dream is to make a movie about how Angel got that job,” Casey said.

Casey has taken the basic art class and painting at West. This year, Martin went to Broadmoor for the Technical Center for a 2-D animation class.

In the 2-D Animation class at Broadmoor students develop digitally generated 2-D animations using industry-standard graphics software said 2-D Animation teacher, Bryan Johnson.

“Casey was an excellent student. He has a keen sense for storytelling and a relentless pursuit to satisfy his vision. He has an eye for detail that I have not seen in many other students and his animations reflect that detail and really makes them special ” Johnson said.

The struggle to communicate is prominent characteristic of Autism. Students use their areas of interests as a means to develop communication skills.

Casey uses his characters to tell stories, “I draw on a computer and make up my own characters.”

Martin’s has developed the show “Life with Angie & Jared”, it has “scranimals” in it.

“Scranimals” are two animals that are morphed together. Angie and Jared are “cice” which is a mix between cows and mice.

“I also did more scranimals like Johnny Gig, a goat and pig, Mayor Liger, a lion and a tiger, and Sophia Rattlecobra, a rattlesnake and a cobra,” Casey said.

Martin’s long term goal is to is to get his dream movie “Lilo and Stitch 4” produced and shown on the big screen in 3-D, and it to eventually come out on BluRay.

Casey’s work will be displayed R&D forum April 26-28 and at the Olathe Northwest emagine festival April 6.