Day #301 – Art, Autism, and Abstraction

I have to write about our day today – I’ll get back to therapies tomorrow.

As you know (if you’ve been reading for awhile), taking Tucker on vacation can be troublesome – the new places and faces, the change of schedule, the different food, the unknown – all can (and do) present some unique challenges.

As you also know (if you’ve been reading for awhile), I often have guilt about this because Estelle his a sort of ‘side-tragedy’ of this fact.  She simply doesn’t get to do all the things and go all of the places I would like to take her.

Then there are days like today.  Days that I decide we’re just going to go.  We’ll just figure it out as we go.

This morning I decided we were going to take a day trip to Minneapolis – specifically to the Walker Art Center for my budding artist.  I had no idea how it would all go…but I knew I needed to take the chance for her.

So, I told Tucker we were going mini-golfing.  I knew that would work because he loves anything sporty.  Sure enough, he was up for that.  Once we got in the Suburban and on the road I told him we were going to Minneapolis to go mini-golfing.  I had long wanted to take them to the ‘Artist-Designed Mini Golf Course.’

It’s just under a three-hour drive.

The questions began immediately – so I decided to take a different approach.

First, I put him in charge of directions.  He closely followed the map and the GPS on my phone.  He was in control.  He could constantly watch ‘how much further.’  He could see exactly where we were at any given moment.

He provided the directions to me as I drove.


Second, I told him that my phone was his for the day.  He could use it in any way he needed – to get information, to find other things to do, to take pictures, to take a time-out, to check the time – anything but surf the internet while we were on the road (hello….data plan).

It turns out – he’s a great trip planner.  I don’t know why I didn’t think of that before.  Duh.  I’ve been so wrapped up in all of the challenges I forgot to bank on his strengths.  I hate it when I do that.

So, by the time we got there he had a plan.  A plan carefully balanced with his wants and needs and Estelle’s wants and needs.  The sculpture garden, the Art Center, and mini-golf in that order. That way if he got too hot there was an air-conditioned space in the middle.

Makes great sense – especially for someone who knows when he gets hot that he’s unable to control his emotions.

The sculpture garden was great.  I was actually surprised at how interested he was in ALL of it.

Then, the museum.  I was nervous because I knew it could become overwhelming and was quite abstract.  There was an International Pop Exhibit that was awesome – but full of color and abstractness.  He lasted five minutes and then said, “Mom, I know this is important to Estelle – but my eyes hurt.  It’s just too much.  Can I go sit on that bench?”

So he did.  He sat on the bench near the exhibit until Estelle was finished.

Then we turned the corner to find ’16 Jackie’s’ by Andy Warhol.


He stopped.  So we stopped.  Estelle read the description of the piece.  He wanted to know more so I told both of them all I knew about Andy Warhol.

He continued to stare at the piece and finally said, “It’s a pattern.”  I smiled and agreed.  He said, “No – it’s a pattern in so many ways.  I like it.”

Then we moved to a ‘calmer’ area of the museum.  He grew more and more interested and finally said, “I just don’t know what I’m supposed to get out of some of it.”  I said, “I know Tuck.  It’s the thing about art – there really isn’t a right or wrong answer.  It’s about how the piece makes you feel.”

He replied, “I like Andy Warhol. It’s like he sees the same thing from different angles and in different colors, but always the same.  He puts that same lady [Jackie] but shows how she’s different. I get that.”

Wow…yeah…that makes sense. It mirrors how he thinks – categories, patterns, visual.


Next up? Mini-golfing.  The first hole was a replica of Augusta’s 18 holes.  He was amazed.  He stood staring at it…he read the description.  Then announced to everyone (and I mean EVERYONE), “Listen – you have to read about the art.  That way you can try to figure it out.”

photo 1-6

 photo 2-5


Next on our list?  Checking on the new Minnesota Vikings Stadium, the U of M campus (where we had a lengthy discussion about the Greek System), and an inaugural trip to Trader Joe’s.

Then, he typed ‘Home’ into the GPS, handed me my phone, and I knew it was time.

I’m thankful for days like today – days when I remember to play to his strengths.  Days when he’s able to advocate for what he needs (a break when his eyes hurt).   Days when he realizes that there isn’t a right answer for everything, and that’s okay.  Days when he makes some sense of the abstract world we live in.

My hope was that he would begin to correlate art and autism.

Neither have concrete answers…and both are beautiful.


One thought on “Day #301 – Art, Autism, and Abstraction

  1. Pingback: Day #327 – Indexing | 366 Days of Autism

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