Twenty-four-year-old Kambel Smith is not only an amazing artist — he’s also a visionary with a mission to change the world. Adventures of Survivor is a book series conceived and illustrated by Kambel and written by his father, Lonnie Smith, celebrating the human will to survive even under the most challenging mental and physical circumstances. Lonnie is understandably proud of his son’s achievements — and his unquenchable determination to help others. Scroll down to view Kambel’s most recent oil paintings and to read Lonnie’s story of how Kambel has overcome tremendous obstacles and become an accomplished artist.
Ed. Note: Since the original installment of this article, Kambel Smith has launched an addition to his Survivor website, called Alleyboy.Inc. Kambel’s dad writes: “Alleyboy.Inc represents an unstoppable change in the rules of life for a new more complex generation and the acceptance of these rules by society. Kambel’s goal is to lead by example as he emphasizes his belief that autism is a form of individuality that doesn’t make a person more or less normal…just different.
As told by Lonnie Smith
Kambel was born December 4, 1986. At birth, he seemed to be a normal child; doctors gave him a clean bill of health. But at age two, I noticed that there was something wrong. Kambel had made no efforts to begin speaking, and he was unusually withdrawn. During the next four years his withdrawal turned to uncontrollable fits of rage.
After months of testing, psychologists diagnosed Kambel mentally retarded. For years Kambel was lost in a system of tests and medication, which controlled his anger — but made him further withdrawn and increasingly depressed. At age ten he was placed in a school for the mentally retarded with severe behavioral problems. After three month at the school, a psychologist noticed that Kambel’s behavior had become severely erratic since his arrival; he was exhibiting seven different types of retardation. Further observation revealed that Kambel was imitating the erratic behavior of seven different students in his class; this was a pattern he had been following for four years, but it had never been noticed. It was then that doctors determined that Kambel was autistic.
Kambel was immediately taken off medication and removed from the school, but doctors still had no solution for his condition. For years he struggled with rage and depression, being moved from school to school, program to program — and while doctors and administrators tried to find an answer, Kambel’s academic capabilities where becoming non-existent.
But at age fifteen, when Kambel was at the peak of his depression, a Christmas gift changed his life forever. An easel and painting supplies revealed his amazing artistic talent. Kambel’s rage was turned into beautiful works of art, and his autism has been under control ever since.*
Ed. Note: Lonnie explained to Awe in Autism that since Kambel started drawing he has not shown previous symptoms of violence and depression, and because of that, he is doing well.