Meet Ronaldo B.
Ronaldo B., 32
Painting is his life – it’s where he is the most comfortable – where he is perfect.
Valerie stands quietly in the doorway of her son’s bedroom on the top floor of their family home in a small suburb of Philadelphia. Her hands gently clasped at her waist, she watches proudly as he works diligently at his desk, surrounded by hand painted cartoon characters and comic book heroes covering his purple walls. Barely able to catch a peek over his shoulder, she props herself on to her tippy toes to get a better look at the spectrum of colors appearing as his right arm moves from the canvas to the cup of water that he uses to clean his tools of the trade.
“Painting is his life – it’s where he is the most comfortable – where he is perfect,” she whispers not to disrupt his flow.
As his paintbrush swiftly drifts back and forth across the white canvas, the smile on Ronaldo’s face grows wider with every purposeful stroke. The 32-year-old’s colorful, cartoon-like world, which he brings to life with a wistful ease, quickly begins to take shape in mere minutes. In the blink of an eye, the canvas is methodically filled with vibrant portrayals of people, places and life-like scenes that could best be described as “Simpsonesque.”
“It brings me joy,” Ronaldo said as he signed his name at the bottom of his newest creation. A man of few words, he uses his talents as an artist to express how he’s feeling on any particular day. “I feel very proud when I paint. It’s my outlet.”
Ronaldo wasn’t diagnosed with autism until his teens, but his mom always knew her son was different than other kids his age, which she never saw as a disadvantage. The single mom of four always encouraged her eldest to embrace his differences and create his own path in life. It was that ability to fully embrace the cards he was dealt which created the creative, soft-spoken and selfless man Ronaldo has become today.
“I owe it all to my mom. The first word that comes to mind when I think about her is inspiration.”
Today, Ronaldo and his three siblings, Delano, 28, Senio, 25, and Varonica, 21, live under the same roof with their mom, their primary caretaker. Although each has unique strengths and challenges, their tight-knit familial bond provides a sense of security and gives them the confidence to know they can all rely on each other no matter what life has in store.
“All of my children are unique in their own way. Senio’s IEP says he’s autistic, but he was never officially diagnosed. Ronaldo was diagnosed, of course, and my other two were in special education classes. Whatever special needs they have, we come together as a family to ensure they get the support they need. We are all we have, and we all want the best for each other.”