East Texas Reflections RSS Feed

michaels art3.jpg zmichaelartshowwork.jpg michaels art5.jpg Michaels art1.jpg
zmichaelcreatingacanvascutout.jpg Michaels 17th cake.jpg zMichaelsmusicboxplayart.jpg zmichaelatartshow.jpg
zmichaelbarnyardplayart.jpg zmichaelplaydrawingveteran1.jpg zmichaelartshowsandal.jpg Michaels art4.jpg
michaels art2.jpg zmichaelcreatingacanvas.jpg zmichaelartshowpatrioticmask.jpg

Allow us to deviate from our East Texas theme for a moment and take you on a journey for just a few minutes into and through the world of Michael Mendiola.
Michael is the teenage autistic son of a career Navy couple, Rudy and Tammy, who just happen to be members of our family.
We first met Michael when he and his family visited East Texas approximately 14 years ago. We had no experience with autistic children, didn't understand the issues, and quite honestly were left wide-eyed as he body-surfed across our coffee table one moment and seemed out of control at others.
He was, in short, a very "normal" appearing youngster who didn't say a word.
Michael was born in 1991 in Chesapeake, Virginia, moved to Yokosuka, Japan four months later, and while his mother suspected there was something "different" about Michael, it took doctors two more years before they diagnosed his condition on his third birthday, Nov. 23, 1994.
Although his mother had prepared herself for the moment, she says now, "it wasn't any easier to accept and given the late diagnosis, Michael was behind where his parents felt he could have been.
Just over five years ago when his great-grandfather, Harold Edwards, passed away, Michael would communicate in one word or two word sentences... "Uncle Gary" was a greeting and a goodbye, spoken without inflection... simply uttered as he'd pass from one room to another, acknowledging that you were there and he was reaching out.
At the funeral the minister was told in advance that should he hear Michael uttering some type of sound he was to simply ignore it and continue with the service. Most among us understood and those who didn't could simply adjust. He was Michael and he was loved and he was wanted.
During the service Michael took a pencil and paper and began to draw. We were thankful he was preoccupied and we paid little attention.
The service ended and several of those attending left the spacious room and gathered outside to talk. For some reason I felt the need to go back inside the chapel and once there, I was approached by a funeral home staff member with a piece of paper in his hand.
On that paper was the perfectly drawn head of a dog and on that dog's head was a human hand, petting the dog, assuring the dog that everything was okay.
"I found it on the casket," the voice was saying to me, "and I wondered it you wanted to keep it."
While the adults were listening to the minister, Michael had been busy doing what Michael does better than anything else in his young life, he draws.
"No," I said, "Michael wanted that to be with his great-grandfather," and so that drawing remains forever with "Grampa."
We tell you that story because through his art, Michael has reached those of us who know him, far better than he might have through any words that could have been spoken.
He started drawing at age seven and he simply hasn't stopped. He is known to carry his art with him, and gives it up very grudgingly.
Two years ago when he was 15 he went to a store with his grandmother and mother and when he returned home, he sat down and drew a merry-go-round that had been on display... eerily remembering many of the details.
So with that as background, we hope you'll enjoy his art but more than that, we hope you understand what we now know... that given a chance, many children like Michael who are so easily over-looked in our hectic society, can often teach us far more than we can ever teach them.
In April 2009 there wasan art show in Pensacola, Florida where art created by Michael and others with autism was exhibited and sold to raise funds for the new Autism Center at Sacred Heart Hospital.

We've included on the site some of the art displayed by Michael as well as a beautiful patriotic mask created by another Milton High School student, Connor Plant, 18.

Connor, like Michael, is autistic and they and so many others among us have so much to offer, if we'll only slow down long enough to notice.

Thus far the art show and the sales of the books created from the art work provided by the young folks has raised $1,600 that will be used by the hospital to purchase early diagnosis kits for area pediatricians.
Welcome to Michael's world and all that it has to offer.