Adults with autism are able to express themselves artistically through a new hands-on arts program in Princeton.
The program, which was created due to a partnership between the Arts Council of Princeton and non-profit Eden Autism, allows autistic adults from the ages of 21-76 to take part in weekly art classes.
Eden Autism is an organization that specializes in a year-long school program for children from the time they are three until they are 21 years of age. The school offers vocational training for adolescents and adults, residential services for adults and numerous other resources grounded in applied behavior analysis.
Beginning this past February, the program began as a pilot program or small scale trial that continued into the spring and summer.
Now, the program is running all year round due to 36 autistic adults who participated from Eden. 12 of the 36 adults are still currently in the program.
“We conducted a pilot to see how it worked for the students – Eden and us,” said Jim Levine, interim executive director of the Arts Council of Princeton. “This program was a success all around so now we have extended this to be an ongoing program.”
The idea for the program started with a conversation between Ted Deutsch, who at the time was the arts council board president, and Michael Decker, president and CEO of Eden Autism Services.
“[Deutsch and Decker] talked about it and came together very quickly because both sides were interested in a program like this. This program continues the arts council mission to provide the arts to as many underserved populations that we can,” Levine said. “This is a way for people to express themselves in a population that might have challenges expressing themselves in other ways.”
The courses are taught by Barbara DiLorenzo, who is described by officials as a first rate art teacher. She designs activities and artistic experiences in line with the capabilities of the students.
“This new partnership was an idea that began over a year ago. We have really been able to meld the two mission’s together with this partnership. We have always had a number of people who have wanted to express themselves through the arts,” Decker said. We have been able to bring this experience to another level with the arts council.”
Classes include painting, pottery and other art mediums.
“When we started talking with Jim Levine and, at the time, Ted Deutsch. and saw their enthusiasm combined with ours, we knew this program would be a good one,” Decker said. “One of the biggest focusses we have at Eden is to support people with autism as active participants and contributors to the community. We certainly believe that this program will be around for some time.”