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Why I Cried Happy Tears When I Saw My Son’s Art in a Museum

In this post, autism mom Rebecca Miller talks about the emotional moment she saw her son Max's art hanging at the Denver Art Museum. An art show in Denver, developed by her talented son who has with autism, is currently looking for art and poetry from kids of all ages and talents.

It was the big moment.

Max and I danced in a circle while waiting for our tickets. His father shook his head at us and we twirled around. Max was beaming. I put Max’s member sticker on his shirt and stuck mine on with a sense of pride that I never felt before.

My son’s art was hanging at the Denver Art Museum. THE museum and we were here to see it!

We started the climb up the stairs of the Hamilton building and there it was—the Community Quilt. Each step seemed like 100 feet. My heart pounded in my chest as I walked up the stairs, straining my neck to see the quilt in its entirety. Max ran up ahead and waited for me at the top.

"There it is! Mom, there it is!" He was bouncing. I scanned the quilt panels and there it was. “My Family,” by Max Miller.

I stood there in silence with my arm around my boy. Tears began to roll down my face. I felt a sense of pride that I never felt before with him. I felt as if every cell in my body was bursting with joy and yet I cried. I felt delirious. It was a wave of relief and honor and privilege. My son’s art was chosen for this communal piece and it hung boldly in the upper corner of the quilt. We walked closer.

“Pretty cool,” Dad muttered. He bonked Max on the head as dads do. “Good job.” I was a wreck.

Max stayed calm but I could tell he was proud. A man walked up and asked if we were part of the exhibit.

“Yes, my son Max made a panel. It’s the one with the green background in the corner.” I was thrilled someone asked so I could brag openly.

The man complimented Max and Max shrugged it off. “It’s not my best work,” he said humbly. The man bellowed with laughter. Max turned as red as a beet.

“Son, I expect to see more of your work in here when you grow up,” the man said as he walked away.

I reflected on how I felt as I snapped 100 pictures of the same thing and Facebooked and messaged all my friends.

Victorious.

Victories such as these don’t come often for the ASD parent. Our lives are filled with compromise and planning. We don’t get the same moments as our peers. We’re thrilled if shoes get tied and if meltdowns are postponed. A good mark in school is cause for a fireworks display. Eating something other than a chicken nugget is time to break out the good wine. Our victories are sweet and can reduce us into a pile of happy tears. It erases a bit of the jealousy when our friend talks about her kids latest accomplishment while we were finally called mommy, but so was the cat, our coffee cup and the television set.

This victory impacted me more than I realized. When my son came up to me and said he wanted to Light it up Blue at his school last year, I was happy to oblige. He was graduating from the 5th grade and was part of the ASD program. Max said he wanted to say thanks to the ASD program and do a canned food drive for the local food bank at the same time. We partnered with Autism Speaks Denver who helped us with obtaining supplies. As part of his celebration, we took some of his art and I had him dictate the title and meanings of the art while I typed it up. We hung the art and essays up on the wall in the foyer at Eagleview.

To our astonishment, his art and essays became the focal point of the celebration. Soon we were touring the show and Max was asked to speak to different groups. To extend his reach, we did a crowdfunding and put his art and essays into a book. Hello, My Name is Max and I Have Autism was born.

Seeing the impact he was having, Max started his foundation, the Blue Ribbon Arts Initiative. He wanted to provide access to the arts for kids on the spectrum. He told me that “art saved him,” and he wanted to give this gift to others. He came up with the idea of having an art show featuring kids on the spectrum.

Max wanted to share his experience of being in an art show with other kids. I wanted to share my mommy moment with other parents. We collaborated and reached out to our friends. The result is the art show, Youth Artists on the Spectrum: A Celebration of Neurodiversity which will be held at 40 West Arts in Lakewood, Colorado from April 2-25.

The art show is currently looking for art and poetry from kids of all ages and talents. There is no charge to join and your art will be sold. 40% goes back to the artist and the remainder goes to the gallery and Autism Speaks. Feel the victory, have some fun and join us for our first art show! It’s all about celebrating our kids.

If you need an Art Start Kit, BRAI will provide you with some supplies to get your project started.

Interested? Visit blueribbonartsinitiative.weebly.com or write us at insightintotheautisticmind@gmail.com. Deadline is March 26.

The Autism Speaks blog features opinions from people throughout the autism community. Each blog represents the point of view of the author and does not necessarily reflect Autism Speaks' beliefs or point of view.