Aspergers, drawing and art

Many kids with Aspergers do not enjoy drawing and colouring.  This could be due to the fact that many have less ‘handedness differentiation’ – neither hand has better developed control, so drawing (and eventually writing) is more difficult.  But there could be more to it than that.

Just as there seems to be a difficulty in translating thoughts into a written form, some Aspies experience a similar difficulty in translating visual images into a drawing.

This is strictly my own observation, and I am not aware of a connection between these two aspects in any professional literature, but I cannot but wonder if this is a different expression of one underlying problem.  Let me describe it a little bit.

My dad has never been diagnosed with Aspergers – nor has he ever sought an opinion on the topic.  However, I do see some similarities between the way he, my sons and I processes information – at least, in some instances.  When we were trying to figure out this whole ‘Aspergers’ thing, he shared with me something that happened to him, when he was about 10 years old.

Standards and teaching methods in school were a little differen in his days, and teachers were more authoritarian.  During an art class, a substitute teacher said they were to draw a picture of a pig and hand it in at the end of the class.   A simple assignment – right?  Except that nobody had ever taught him how to go about drawing a picture of a pig… and my dad simply could not figure out how to even start.

He sat there, for the whole period, without making a single mark on his sheet of paper.  The teacher was not pleased.  As a matter of fact, he got very angry.  My dad was smart and had high marks, but he was not the most compliant of students.  The teacher would not believe him when my dad said he did not know how to do draw a pig, and concluded this was simply defiance…  and to report to him after school for detention.

The detention?  My dad was to sit at his desk until he drew the picture of a pig, then he was to bring it to the teacher’s office.  Once that was done, he could go home.  But try as he might, he simply could not resolve the image of a pig into its componenet parts, which he could then draw.  So, he sat at his desk, for several hours.  Finally, the janitor took pity on him. 

He, too, found it hard to believe a kid could not figure out how to draw a pig, but when he saw my dad just sitting there, for hours, he took a plain piece of paper and a pencil, drew a rectangle for a body, a triangle with a dot for the head and an eye, four sticks coming out of the bottom of the rectangle for legs and a curly spring on the back for tail.  “Here” he said.  “A pig!”

This was a revelation to my dad!  He easily reproduced the simplified ‘pig’ onto his sheet of paper, brought it to the teacher, and was allowed to go home.  

I have since met several people who do not naturally have an ability to break down a visual image into subsets, individual lines, which could then be put onto paper.  However, they can be shown how to go about it, and learn the process – just that to be effective, this process of learning needs to take place when they are older than when most kids learn to draw. 

Similarly, many Aspies do not have a natural ability to break a thought into constituent parts that can be written down – we start looking up words, checking spelling and grammar, wonder about better ways of saying it…. and end up producing very few actual words…  Yet, like with drawing, this process can also be learned – and it, too, will only be effectively learned at a later age than that of non-Aspie peers.

Could it be the same ‘prioritization’ or ‘orderig’ of ‘stuff’ that is causing both effects?

Another connection between them:  once Aspies ‘learn’ this process, they do not simply ‘learn’ it, they often ‘master’ it, and become better at it than most other people.  And yes, some do become successful writers or artists… Eccentric, yes, but successful.

Is this simply ‘overcompensation’?  Or is there something else at play here?