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The human spectrum

How many times have I told you not to paint your hands? said his mother. After all these years, haven't you learned that you can't do that? You don't understand, replied the son. This week in art class we've learnt to let the colours from within us shine through this boundary that limits the view of others, also known as skin! added his son.

The parents seem to have stayed very much the same. Not the son, because he has made what is called a desert journey. His parents too, though in a different way. But they are supposed to be different people. The son is 19 and entered Fine Arts last year. He entered Higher Education the same year he was told he was diagnosed with Autism Spectrum Disorder. His parents always said there must be something there. More his mother than his father. Even so, the various insistences and persistences of both and the multiple trips to doctors and other specialists did not seem to have availed them much, in their own words. The son called André (fictitious name) disagrees. He says he has learnt a lot about the human condition along the way. I think it would be a waste of time if there was nothing to learn from the paths we take, he repeats several times. André has a functional vision of the world. But he also has a romantic way of looking at it. And he knows how to express this in his works of art like no other.

People often say that they do not understand my works, says André. He says that people usually look in the wrong direction. And they stick to the surface of the work, as if the film, canvas or any other material were impermeable to people's gaze, feelings and thoughts. I think the same thing happens to me, he says. People remain by appearances, by what they call my behaviour, he adds. Sometimes I feel sad, sometimes I feel sad for them. They don't know what they are missing. They don't know how they lose themselves, he continues.

I have always tried to understand the world from what I do and also from the impact it has on others, says André. I started talking later than usual and later than most of my cousins and colleagues, he says. I didn't feel that I needed to talk, at least not in the way that I usually do. But I don't understand what all the fuss is about, because people have always communicated in equally different ways. But they thought that as a child I had to communicate in that way and not the way I liked best. I never liked people bossing me around or even thinking they have that power over me. Most of the time they call me arrogant, stubborn and other things because I said so, he mentions. They say I'm spoilt and that I just want to do things my way! And the others? you ask. Don't the others also like to do things their own way? he repeats.

And then they seem to become much more enlightened and enlightened when someone tells them I have a diagnosis, says Andrew. First they said I had Oppositional Defiant Disorder, then they added Obsessive-Compulsive Disorder, and the list went on and on. There were also people who said I didn't have anything. But no one seemed interested in asking what I thought I had. And when some started asking, they would listen to me, but then they would talk to others and say it didn't seem to make sense, he says. And all the while I was walking hand in hand, and the act of holding someone's hand is something that has always caused me great distress. But they forced me, they even grabbed me, even if I showed displeasure about it. They called it tantrums. Even today they say that I throw many of these and other tantrums.

I grew tired of almost everyone somehow thinking that this or that was my fault, says André. Even my loneliness and isolation. They never understood things inside me. And that's how I came to feel that my artworks taught me to understand myself - by looking inwards. At first it scared me. And the others even more so. Countless times my parents were called to school. Whether it was because at a certain time I was only using one colour, or only using a tiny part of the total sheet of paper they gave me. They made me fill in the rest of the sheet, even if I said I didn't know what was there. They told me to invent. At the beginning, I didn't really understand why I had to make things up, especially as I was doing fine, he says.

It's in the diagnosis manual, I heard it all the time, says André. Once I asked the doctor if he knew and could explain to me how that stuff in the diagnosis book got there! He says he didn't have time to explain it to me during the consultation. All he had to do was answer - people. What's in the diagnostic manuals comes from people, from observing people. And I know what it is to be observed. I've been watched all my life. The question is what the people who observe take from that observation to write in those diagnostic manuals. But in fact they are people, and people are stories and life and that's not there in those diagnostic manuals, but there are people who continue to wave those same manuals as if they held some truth. And if I ask what the truth is, they often tell me that it is called scientific truth, André says. And they do so with such an air that I should not even dare to question this very scientific truth. Because I've already done it and the result wasn't exactly positive, he adds.

Do you know that if I wanted to paint mine the same way again it wouldn't be possible? asks André. I smile at him. That's what I call the Human Spectrum, he concludes.

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