Audrey K., 33, of Cheshire, went through childhood not realizing that she had Asperger Syndrome but knowing she was different.
“I was not diagnosed with Asperger Syndrome until I was out of high school. This was before people knew a lot about Asperger Syndrome. So for a long period in my life, people would be like, ‘she has some issues but we don’t know what the heck it is.’ “
“I would probably be described as quirky yet harmless,” she says, with a chuckle.
It took coming to Chapel Haven for Audrey to feel at home with the right peer group and a curriculum that could help her. Not only did she feel that Chapel Haven could truly help her with autism, she also found an arts community here that embraces her amazing talents. Audrey spoke with Chapel Haven for our series, Chapel Haven Changes Lives.
“It’s really cool that Chapel Haven provides so much help for people who are on the autism spectrum because sometimes you can really feel alone,” she says.
Audrey works at the Southington Community Cultural Arts. She also produces and markets her artwork on the web. And, she also recently got married.
Audrey is an amazing visual artist who especially likes to do portraits. She has a fascination with Lon Chaney and the Elephant Man, in particular. “As soon as I developed the motor skills to pick up a pencil, I’ve been doing art,” she says, including graduating from the Educational Center for the Arts in New Haven, an arts-focused high school where she met a lot of cool friends and honed her craft.
“Mostly I do portraits of people that I find interesting,” she says. “I can’t remember how many paintings I’ve done of Lon Chaney.”
But why Lon Chaney? “I just think he was an amazing actor. He was a silent film actor and I just admire him – he was such a good actor and a good artist who designed his own makeup. He’s very well known for playing the Phantom of the Opera back in the 1920s and his makeup was so scary, people ran out of the theatre screaming.”
The Elephant Man she calls “one of my muses.”
Audrey and family learned about Chapel Haven through the state’s autism pilot program. She was enrolled in another program that was not a good fit.
“My family tried to get some kind of help for me but nothing ever came of it,” she says.
Today, Audrey accesses “a la carte” supports through Chapel Haven’s ASAT program. She credits her support coordinator, Rachel Horn, with helping her in a variety of ways – accessing benefits, volunteering at a local day care center and helping her problem solve.
“There have been times I was having a full blown meltdown and staff were able to ease me out of it,” she says.
Rachel says, “Audrey is a young talented woman with a great sense of humor and drive to be independent. It has been my pleasure working with her over the years and watching her grow. Audrey has fulfilled many goals such as traveling, getting married, selling her art, and finding employment. I️ look forward to seeing what else she accomplishes in the future. ”
A highlight for Audrey has been joining the Chapel Haven Art Guild. She has displayed her work at Chapel Haven shows including at Mitchell Library, at the Chapel Haven talent show at Lyric Hall in Westville, and on campus. She was especially proud that Chapel Haven Art Director Tina Menchetti bought one of her paintings.
Says Tina, “Audrey is an extremely talented and gifted artist. I am so proud to have an original artwork of Audrey’s in my own collection of the Elephant Man. He has always been one of my heroes-a brilliant man that overcame his disability with help from kind people in the latter part of his life.”
Audrey says Chapel Haven has “helped me to get my artwork out there a little bit more.”
You can view Audrey’s artwork on the website https://www.deviantart.com/and she has more recently gotten involved with a website called “We are Lions,” which sells artwork created by artists with special needs. You can visit that site here: https://wearelions.org/
And you can see Audrey’s work, along with many adults from Chapel Haven, at our upcoming Chapel Chapel Haven Art Show and Sale this Thursday Nov. 9th 3:30-5 in Chapel Haven’s Outreach center.
We thank Audrey for sharing her inspiring story!