More than words

It may well be that a picture is worth a thousand words. That certainly is the case for 18-year old Jake Schindler, diagnosed with autism, who uses art to communicate with his family. His audience is now expanding as the family is generously donating 10 pieces of Jake's art for the emergency/urgent care expansion project at Mayo Clinic Health System in Menomonie, where Jake was born.

According to a story in Eau Claire's Leader-Telegram, Jake was diagnosed with autism when he was 2 years old. By definition, (courtesy of autism "symptoms and severity vary" but all "autism spectrum disorders affect a child's ability to communicate and interact with others." According to the newspaper, "Jake's case is considered severe." Being non-verbal, Jake needs pictures to communicate. His mother, Christina, tells the Leader-Telegram that they've tried several things over the years to pique Jake's interest, but none really resonated with him, until he discovered art.

On a suggestion from Jake's grandfather, Derald Tuschi, Christina decided to try to get Jake involved in art. She bought him several canvases along with paints, and an assortment of brushes and sponges. But Jake preferred to get his hands dirty and use his fingers to create art. "Through his art, Jake is communicating with us," Christina tells the Telegram. "It's our job to figure out what he is trying to say."

Mayo Clinic Health System was happy to receive some of Jake's creations. "We are very grateful for the donation of art and plan to display pieces in a variety of locations throughout the emergency and urgent care department," Mayo's Alana Schutts tells the Leader-Telegram. "Jake's artwork is amazing and inspiring. I think it will help to brighten the day for many of our patients."

Jake's pediatrician, R. Gregg Kishaba, M.D., echoes that sentiment, calling Jake's abilities "unique." He notes that activies like artwork can be beneficial for patients with autism. "Art definitely can be used as an outlet for all kinds of energy or stress," Dr. Kishaba says. "Oftentimes, difficult behaviors can improve because of the outlets creating artwork can provide."

The positive reception means a great deal to Jake's family. "This tells me they believe in Jake, and they recognize Jake beyond his diagnosis," his mother tells the newspaper.

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