Supporting student artistic empowerment during Autism Awareness Month

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PHOENIX, Ariz. (ABC4 News) – April is Autism Awareness Month and organizers of an art camp to empower students with autism are raising money to extend that inspiration across the country.

Douglas Hebert and Yvonne Wan are two of the individuals behind the art camp, which helps champion children with disabilities. Wan is the creator and Hebert is the main artist of Focus, a comic book about one of the first superheroes with autism. Since then, they’ve made multiple visits to Salt Lake City for FanX.

Wan is an art teacher, certified social cultural anthropologist, and creates educational panels about the importance of the arts to society, especially those with special needs. She teaches the camp in Phoenix, AZ alongside Hebert, who is a certified art teacher and internship coach. They also joined by additional instructors, interns, occupational therapists, and ABA therapists.

“The mission of our project is to maintain dignity for individuals with autism by removing the stigma associated with it. People with autism fulfill their creative potential through the arts,” said Wan.

The students learn 1D and 3D art, color categorization, arithmetic, and engage in sensory play. They also fine tune their major and fine motor skills.

“We help them fulfill their creative potential. Art is therapeutic for everyone, especially those with special needs,” said Wan. “We help them learn to express themselves more through art. This is especially important for autistic kids who are non-verbal. It gives them a great sense of achievement knowing they can create amazing art for the world to see.”

Although they are now 29 weeks into the free art camp, Wan said the program is currently on hiatus because of the COVID-19 pandemic.

But in the meantime, she said the public can help support their efforts by ordering their Focus comics. The book is also available for purchase at Dr. Volt’s Comic Connection in Salt Lake City. Supporters can also donate to their Autism Awareness Month fundraiser or participate in their silent auction.

“For every $10 we receive during this fundraiser, we gift one Focus comic to a child with autism who is living in a children’s home or foster care throughout the USA, including Salt Lake City. We want kids with autism to see that as a strength, not a weakness. We also believe that individuals with autism can be superheroes too.”

The online exhibition can be found at www.focuscomic.com and their social media pages.

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