Opportunity Knocks for Youth with Autism Who Attended Summer Workshops at Exceptional Minds
A dinosaur in search of Starbucks and Frank Sinatra's "Fly Me to The Moon" set to an orchestra of Star Wars characters were just a few of the animated adventures that took place at this summer's Exceptional Minds digital arts workshop for youth with autism, which ended August 16.
Eighty-five young men and women ranging in age from 12 to 26 spent part of their summer at the vocational school for individuals with autism, learning new skills in digital animation, video game development and visual effects.
Among them was Xavier Romo of Alhambra, Calif., who became interested in the digital arts after meeting Exceptional Minds students and staff at a local autism awareness event in Los Angeles. "I went into Exceptional Minds thinking 'I'm not an artist, so what am I going to do here?' I ended up making a game that was really, really good and I realized I can do this," says Xavier, who had been diagnosed with autism when he was seven and had attended college after High School but had yet to find a career suited to his unique skills and talents. Xavier's tuition for the workshop was covered in part by an Autism Speaks Baker Summer Camp Scholarship, which seeks out community programs such as Exceptional Minds' summer workshops each year for the purpose of providing the necessary funding and opportunities for disadvantaged youth on the spectrum.
Exceptional Minds offers a rigorous, three-year program for young adults with autism pursuing lifelong careers in visual effects, post-production and other fields in the digital arts. The vocational school is attended during the school year by young adults in their early to mid-20s, but is open during the summer months to younger youth or young adults with autism interested in exploring the digital arts for fun or as a possible career path.