Diagnosed with Autism Spectrum Disorder around the age of two, Emilio has just completed Year 12 and received the subject excellence prize for Creative Arts at Blackfriars’ Academic Assembly, as well as the Spirit Award for Aquinas House and the Daniel Cox Memorial Award for Resilience in Life and in Study.
Watching on at the awards ceremony at Bonython Hall, University of Adelaide, were proud parents Lorenzo and Laura who were naturally thrilled for their son but also extremely grateful to the school for its commitment to him over the years.
As Laura explained, when Emilio, now 17, was diagnosed with ASD they were “overwhelmed” about what the future would hold. They were told to enrol him in a special school as he would never “cope” in a mainstream environment.
With a nephew already attending Blackfriars at the time, they could see what the school offered and believed Emilio, with extra help, could fit in. He started at the Prospect school in Year 3 and Laura and Lorenzo said they would be forever grateful for the amazing support he had received over the years.
“We persisted and he’s done it – and done it well,” Laura said..
“We love this school and it’s like his second home and he’s sad to be leaving. The Learning Enrichment Department here has been great and the teachers helping him out and giving him the extra support was unbelievable.
“He’s very much a visual learner and so the teachers always had extra things to help explain work to him and show him how to do things and they would make up special books for him. We were happy because he was learning and was happy here.”
Lorenzo said that the support extended beyond the classroom so Emilio could be included.
“When they did camps they always invited me to come along so he could go – and he had a ball,” he said.
Emilio’s exceptional artistic talent was obvious from an early age.
“It started with Lego and then drawing on the floor,” Laura explained.
“The drawings were elaborate and amazing. At the beginning it was marine life, whales and sharks, then dinosaurs, then trains… but the dinosaur thing has really stuck.”
Items used for his constructing his artwork have included paper, wire, packaging, boxes, erasers and there was also a “pipe cleaner phase”.
Art teachers described Emilio as having an “excellent imagination”, “superior visual spatial and visual constructional skills”, with a “fantastic” ability to bring his ideas to life.
And for Emilio, his passion for art is all-consuming.
“I like spending time on the internet researching (what I’m making) and I also love to watch documentaries,” he said.
Shy and quiet by nature, his dinosaur was included in the school’s annual art exhibition last month. Next year Emilio is hoping to continue his artistic endeavours in a design course at Adelaide University.
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