Founder of Artists and Autism, writer and poet, Jeffrey Kellen
“My personal vision for those on the spectrum is that each and every one is recognized for their neurodiverse talents, and to provide a forum where the world at large may have greater access to these creations, thus combating the many negative stereotypes that abound about those with autism.”
-Jeffrey Kellen, founder, Artists and Autism
A special education teacher for nearly seven years, Jeff decided to go to work for Easter Seals Arc of Northeast Indiana, an organization that provides services to children and adults with disabilities and other special needs. Interacting with a diverse population, from those with autism to severely mentally and physically disabled people, Jeff was inspired by one particular young man to write his first short story.
The young man who touched Jeff so deeply was, for the most part, nonverbal; he had only a few words with which to express his desires and wants. In his short story, “This Shell of Mine,” Jeff imagines what it must be like to have deep feelings and thoughts, yet no way to communicate them. After trying in vain to get exposure for his story, Jeff looked to Facebook – and discovered, much to his surprise, that there was not a single Facebook page devoted to what he describes as “the wonderful artistic and literary skills of those on the spectrum.” Within ten days of launching his page, Artists and Autism, the page had nearly 1000 followers.
Though Jeff initially spent time promoting the page, it has continued to grow on its own – gaining approximately 11,000 “likes” in less than two years. The variety of artistic works, by children and adults on the spectrum or otherwise impacted by autism, is a spectacular showcase of the diversity of talent inspired by autism. Clearly, Jeff discovered a “black hole” in the online community – and because he opened his page to all who desire to contribute, that hole has been filled with something extraordinarily beautiful.