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In addition to tutoring and mentoring students in various academic subjects, Jessica Gonzalez has also opened herself up to helping students who have disabilities, as well as those who desire to become artists in their own form! Jessica grew up with a fear of how the world may perceive her sister, until she found the courage to share her experience through the form of writing. As an educator, Jessica believes that writing and art can give children (and adults) an outlet to their full potential, and can even help conquer fears. 

While autism presents differently in each individual, here are Jessica’s 4 recommendations to keep in mind when supporting someone with autism:

1. Spend time doing things they enjoy 

Connect through a special interest or hobby. Show them that you care, by caring about what they care about! Spend time together engaging in art, dancing, swimming, collecting items, researching history, or anything else they gravitate towards. 

2. Be patient 

People with autism may take more time to process information and express their wants and needs to other people. Be patient, especially when responding to follow-up questions.

3. Provide a calm space

If someone is feeling overwhelmed, make sure they have enough physical space to move their body and calm down in a safe, quiet environment. Remain present, and remind them that you are there for them in whatever way that they need.

4. Focus on strengths

The way you see someone with autism reflects in how they see themselves. Believe in them and celebrate their strengths, as it will make you stronger and happier as a unit. 

 

Jessica’s book Luna, Yes! Luna, Sí! is translated into both English and Spanish, and can be found on Amazon, Etsy, and her website. The book is often used as an educational tool in classrooms to help educate young children about differences they may encounter in their peers due to autism. Jessica has spoken in classrooms throughout the New York City area, and she plans to release more work in the coming years. 

 

“If art is made by ordinary people, then you’d have to allow that the ideal artist would be an ordinary person too, with the whole usual mixed bag of traits that real human beings possess. This is a giant hint about art, because it suggests that our flaws and weaknesses, while often obstacles to our getting work done, are a source of strength as well. Something about making art has to do with overcoming things, giving us a clear opportunity for doing things in ways we have always known we should do.”

David Bayles, Art & Fear: Observations on the Perils (and Rewards) of Artmaking

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