Over the years, I have come across many “savant” individuals. I was puzzled by these exceptional abilities when I observed them in students who otherwise had no language and sometimes exhibited severe behavioral issues. In 1995, I wrote a poem called “VOICELESS IMAGINATIONS”
Upon learning about Temple Grandin and her abilities, I read everything and anything I could get my hands on about her. I read each of her books and attended every lecture I possibly could where Temple was speaking. I consider Dr. Temple Grandin to be my mentor and main inspiration for effectively working with children affected by autism, who emitted such severe self-injurious behavior resulting in bloodied heads from head banging and open tissue damage from biting themselves.
In 2006, I developed the website RCMAutismNotebook, in which I publicized free resources and up-to-date information on autism from my clinical experience working with individuals on the spectrum throughout my first 25 years at the NYC Department of Education.
The ability of severely autistic individuals to create extraordinary art intrigued me. I studied and followed the work of Nadia (Ukraine), who began drawing at the age of 3; Stephen Wiltshire (London), who started drawing at the age of 5; and Jonathan Lerman (New York), who began drawing at age 10. The mission of Strokes of Genius®, Inc. actually began in 2006 when, through an introduction, I met Dr. Darold Treffert.
In 2006, I was introduced to the extraordinary artwork of Ping Lian Yeak by Dr. Laurence A. Becker (producer and director of WITH EYES WIDE OPEN, an international award-winning documentary film about Richard Wawro, an autistic savant artist from Scotland.) Together we introduced the artwork of Ping Lian Yeak to the United States, featuring the first “Don’t ‘dis’ the ability" autistic art exhibition tour in New York City at the Henry Gregg Gallery in Brooklyn, NY (DUMBO). Ping Lian was a 12-year-old boy from Malaysia with autism. Malaysian airlines and DHL sponsored round trip tickets and courier costs of Ping Lian's artworks, enabling Ping Lian and his family to come to New York for this exhibition.
Sarah Lee (Ping Lian's mother) is one of the strongest and most inspirational people I have ever met. Due to her nurturance of her son's talents and Ping Lian's prolific work, I became interested in "training the talent."
Dr. Rosa Martinez