UNESCO-NIE Centre for Arts Research in Education (CARE)

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Name of Author: 
Seow, Ai Wee
Institute: 
National Institute of Education
Year of completion: 
2000
Country: 
Singapore
Country of Research Data: 
Singapore
Language: 
English
Comments: 

An Academic Exercise submitted in partial fulfillment of requirements for Bachelor of Arts (Hons)

Abstract: 

This paper presents a case study on an autistic boy, Daniel, and his drawings over a period of three years. The longitudinal study on his drawings challenges a classical paradigm about perception and representation. The classical paradigm claims that human vision resembles a linear perspective "retina1 image" projected onto the back of the eye. This perspectival basis of vision became the widely held model of visual perception and representation.  Psychologists explain that a failure to produce linear perspective drawings is due to the "corruption" and "suppression" of the "innocent eye" through normal childhood development. They enlisted the drawings of a few autistic child artists to support this notion of the "innocent eye", whereby the condition of autism disrupts and bypasses the normal development of symbolisation and representation, and thus gaining direct access to the supposed perspectival basis of vision. This created the myth that autistic children are natural visual artists 'blessed" with exceptional drawing ability to produce 'photographically realistic" pictures from the moment they draw.

By tracing Daniel's drawing development in the past three years, this paper will show that the theory of a perspectival basis of vision is questionable; and that prior studies of autistic child artists to support this notion are misleading. By observing Daniel and his drawings, it is clear that he, like normal children, goes through a developmental process in which his drawing skills improve with practice and experience, thereby dispelling the myth of an exceptional artist in every autistic child.

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