Sherman Oaks, California (PRWEB) July 23, 2013 -- Autism knows no boundaries for one family that made the 8,000-mile trip from their home in Singapore to Los Angeles earlier this month so their son could attend summer camp at Exceptional Minds, a unique digital arts school for young adults on the autism spectrum.
Here, 20-year-old Michael Leong met others on the spectrum ranging in age from 14 to 21, all coming from different social, economic and geographic backgrounds to participate in Exceptional Minds’ summer camp program geared for youth with autism. “We are bringing in more students from all over the country and now the world who, like Michael, are looking for a future other than stacking boxes,” said Yudi Bennett, the Director of Operations for Exceptional Minds, which opened its doors two years ago to prepare young people on the spectrum for careers in movie post-production and other digital arts vocations.
The Exceptional Minds three-year vocational program is now recognized internationally as a career model for a growing global population of young adults living with autism spectrum disorders (ASD).
“It’s the same everywhere for parents of kids with autism. As our children grow up we all worry about how they will ever live independently. Some of them find work in retail or bagging groceries, but that isn’t going to work for everybody. This -- Exceptional Minds – is what works for someone who has a keen interest in art and computers,” said Geok Hoon Leong, whose son Michael graduated high school in Singapore with honors in mathematics and physics but his laser-sharp focus on select subjects to the exclusion of others makes college difficult for him.
There is a universal need for schools like Exceptional Minds as more children with autism approach adulthood and as parents around the globe struggle to find a place in the world for them. Exceptional Minds is unique in that it prepares students for careers through professional accreditation and real work experience in the movie industry. “We wanted the same opportunities for our kids as everyone else and we realized that wasn’t going to happen in a traditional education setting,” explained Bennett, who also has a son on the autism spectrum.
Exceptional Minds digital arts academy is currently the only vocational school of its kind to provide the professional Adobe certification training needed for its students to gain entry into the workforce, boasting a 99 percent student pass rate for one or more Adobe programs its second year of operation. With enrollment growing, the school recently moved into new high-tech classrooms that more than doubled its capacity.
In addition to its full-time program, the school offers a summer camp program with two-week, introductory classes in digital animation, visual effects and video gaming. Throughout July and part of August, the school opens its doors to youth from all over interested in exploring career options in the digital arts. Many, like Michael, have expressed an interest in animation but aren’t able to pursue mainstream education options because of ASD. A single-minded interest in subjects, difficulty with social interactions, and anxiety are all hallmarks of autism.
“We don’t know what’s next for Michael. That’s what we’re here to find out,” said Leong, who is one of the pioneering members of the Autism Resource Center in Singapore. She left her home in Singapore for the summer after a Skype interview with Exceptional Minds staff and students that prepared Michael for the transition. Michael will remain in Los Angeles with his mother to complete classes in digital animation and visual effects before returning to Singapore in August.
“Even though we’re in a different country and a different culture, Michael seems to be at home here because I think he sees -- he sees that there are other people like him who are doing similar things, who accept him as he is and I think that takes the pressure off, ” she commented.
About Exceptional Minds (http://www.exceptionalmindsstudio.org):
Exceptional Minds is a non-profit vocational center and working production studio for young adults on the autism spectrum. It was chartered in 2011 to provide the training necessary for creatively-gifted individuals with Autism Spectrum Disorders (ASD) who may not otherwise be able to make the transition from high school to careers. Exceptional Minds offers technical proficiency and work readiness training that prepares students for careers in graphic arts, animation, web design, visual effects and rotoscoping. Located in Sherman Oaks, California, Exceptional Minds is both an instructional learning facility and a working studio with hands-on student involvement in production projects, many for the film industry.
Yudi Bennett, Exceptional Minds, http://www.exceptionalmindsstudio.org, 818-387-8811, [email protected]