Problem-Solving Nippled Art

My son and I were watching his favourite after-school TV show yesterday, when they started promoting a competition for the kids: Send in a self-portrait and you’ll go in the draw for a game system. Awesome opportunity to do some art and explain the concept of a competition and “self-portrait”, I think. Also a chance to teach him about addressing and stamping envelopes. So I do my best to explain to him what is required and why we’re doing it, and he enthusiastically sits down to produce a self-portrait.

Being a loving and open-minded mother, I am determined to accept whatever he produces. But as usual, my son challenges my expectations. This was his first picture:

At first I’m not sure what to say. Then I manage: “Is that a picture of you?” And he replies no, it’s a picture of a girl from school. At which stage I’m a little relieved, but also confused (still): It would seem then that he realises he doesn’t actually have giant breasts. But I’m wondering why he thinks his school friend does, and what are those two extra breasts doing further down the body? I’m thinking this isn’t the most appropriate entry for a kid’s drawing competition – especially considering that they share the art-work on the show – so I gently encourage him to try again; and this time to remember it’s meant to be a picture of himself.

This is the second work of art he produces:

I spot a theme.

So I first make sure this is a picture of him: yes, he says it is. One can tell it is now a boy instead of a girl because the hair is shorter, you see. Small problem; what’s with the giant double pair of breasts again? He assure me they are nipples. He’s quite proud of his creation but I’m still not sure this is really appropriate art to forward to strangers who might wonder what-the-hell. So I gently, lovingly, reassuringly, ask him whether he might try one more time, and this time put some clothes on himself in the picture.

His third effort:

Notice the four nipples have appeared yet again. I tell him that he’s meant to be wearing clothes in the picture. He assures me that he is (you can see the fatter outline round the stick figure; representing clothing). I make my thinky face and push the point: “But I can still see the nipples.” To which he wisely replies: The clothing has pretend nipples on it. What could I say to that…

All a reminder that my son is a very literal wee man: If I want him to do art with no nipples on it, I need to say exactly that. The fourth effort was successful (by non-nipple standards) and has been sent off as an entry for the competition.

As a side point that some of you might notice about the art, which I can’t quite figure out yet: Each picture drawn had a count-down added at the top right: 3, 2, 1 (then no number on the final entry art). I have no idea why he was numbering them; they were created in reverse order, and he can’t have possibly known in advance that it would take four pictures to create the “right” one.. ? Also, the pictures each have alternating happy and sad face top right. No, I don’t know why (and yes, I asked, and couldn’t get an answer). Neither could I find out why each figure required two sets of nipples, except maybe the arms on the stick-figure confused him in terms of correct nipple-placement..?

Anyway, he learnt a little about competitions and art entries and may have also learnt the meaning of “self-portrait,” so I’m going to put this whole experience in the “yay” pile. And next time, I think I’ll just send in his first art effort, even if it contains a few too many nipples; let the judges at the other end problem-solve the nippled art instead.

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8 Responses to Problem-Solving Nippled Art

  1. Jack says:

    I don’t want to lower the tone of the blog but does he know the difference between boys and girls? Our son is constantly asking us if we have the same ‘plumbing’ as him. Could it be this maybe?
    The numbering is very confusing. Could he have done a squiggle for the first one that ended up looking like a three then continued the theme? I agree it would be impossible for him to know beforehand how many he will draw.
    Also I notice that the sad face has an extra line at the end of the nose or top of the mouth which is the same on the stick figure.
    Would be interesting to try the drawing again after some time has passed and see what he draws.

    • I arguably lowered the tone of my own blog by doing a nipple-art story, so don’t worry about that!

      And yes, he knows the boys / girls distinction, though he’s only more recently got his head around the boys become men, girls become women bit (we’d thought he understood it perfectly well, but there were hints that we may have been wrong in that assumption).

      And another yes, you could be quite right about the converted squiggle, good thinking!

      Interesting observation about the sad face stick and the figure’s own face, I had not noticed that until you mentioned it! Something else I only just realised is that he intentionally put two dots on the lower right side of the picture each time, I wonder why?

      I agree about trying it again, and seeing how it changes in time. I have an old portrait he did of me from an earlier post, which is really quite different from his current art-work: https://autismandoughtisms.wordpress.com/2011/03/26/this-is-me-meme/

  2. Tsara says:

    Wow! There are so many wonderful thoughts going around in my head and I want to share them but they just aren’t nearly as wonderful in words. So I guess I’m left with thank-you so much for sharing your sons amazing nipple-art and your beautiful thoughts and mommy moments!!

    I love the count down and the happy and sad faces (maybe he felt that all the moods were a more accurate depiction of self??) and the nipples and the shirt with nipples and your soft attempts at getting inside the head of your son (how I’ve wished and wished I could get in my kids heads to understand them better!!) and your love for teachable moments… sorry… I’m using my words and making my thoughts a little less wonderful. What I’m trying to say is, thank-you!!

    Thank-you!!

  3. kibblesbits says:

    Why didn’t you ask why there were extra nipples? There’s a knack to asking kids about their art without being insulting, but in a way with kids on the spectrum, it’s easier to ask directly about it, or at least that’s been my experience. I love asking my kids about their stuff (the verbal ones).

    • Hi kibblesbits, I did ask! But my son doesn’t have strong verbal skills, and sometimes he just chooses not to answer, this was one of those times. I didn’t want to obsess over the nipples so I didn’t keep asking about them after he made it clear he wasn’t going to answer; it’s not worth making him upset by pushing him harder to explain extra nipples!

  4. karenaspergersmom says:

    I love his beautiful mind.

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