Meet Fiona Hale. She’s 12, in the sixth grade, and has autism. But instead of perceiving it as a weakness or burden, Fiona uses her autism and artistic abilities to empower herself and others with the same disability. We learned about Fiona when her mother, Colleen, reached out to Babble to share her story as part of our Citizen Kid program. Like our other Citizen Kids, Fiona is very much an ordinary child doing her best to do extraordinary things.
With the help of her teacher, Ms. Sills, Fiona wrote and illustrated a book about autism that they share with schools in the area. She finds that the story (and her nifty party trick to draw any Disney character from memory) has helped her peers view her as less of an outsider and more of a friend. Take a look at our interview below, and get a glimpse inside the mind of this creative, empowered child.
Babble: What inspires you to draw?
Fiona: Like probably sometimes photos and things I have seen before, I think.
Do you get your inspiration from the animation books you look at?
Well, maybe someday I will.
Where do your drawings come from?
Probably, I got in my head or something like that.
When you look at pictures is that where you get your ideas?
Well actually I mean the picture appears in my head. Something like that.
When you drew your Halloween Mr. Toad picture? Did the whole thing appear at once or did it grow gradually.
I’ll say that it probably appeared in my head.
Did you know exactly what you wanted to draw when you started?
What medium do you like to use most colored pencils or pens?
Mostly Colored pencils
I don’t know, probably because it is a little bit nicer.
When did you first start drawing?
On the sand. Pretty much they say the first drawing I drew was a tiger.
What do you like about drawing on the sand?
Probably in case I don’t have much to do around the beach.
Is there something you want people to see in your pictures or are you just sharing them for the joy?
I think I like to share them for the joy.
Can you tell me what’s going on in this drawing?
Pretty much it looks like Toad and Cyril are in a motor cart. Looks like he built this whirlie coaster that is how my brain goes. Then the roller coaster wasn’t finished yet. It’s a little bit crooked and look the cart with mole crashed the house that the weasels were building and then they got mad. There is a sign that says the autism coaster.
Why would they build a house at the end of a roller coaster?
I guess they didn’t know. They didn’t know it was going to be like that. I think it is a joke or something.
Do you ever feel like you fall off a coaster?
I don’t know. It is like my brain stops working sometimes.
So, why did you write the book with your teacher Ms. Sills?
I guess to understand autism we did a fun little project.
Are you glad people understand you and autism better when they read the book?
I think yeah.
How does sharing your story make you feel?
When you go and read the book to the class, do you enjoy doing things like that?
What do you hope people who read your book learn from your story?
Feel like not to mess around with me.
To treat you well?
To treat me well.
You don’t want them to be mean or bully you?
I guess so. Yeah.
How would you feel if you were bullied?
A little bit unhappy.
What would you tell friends and classmates about how your brain works?
Like a roller coaster.
Is that something you heard or something that came from your head?
I haven’t heard that before and I have been on a roller coaster. I just mean like a loop-de-loop. Probably like upside-down, or up the hills and down the hills.
Are the kids at your school your friends?
I guess sometimes. Some are, some aren’t.
What would you tell them about how kids with autism want to be treated?
Check out some more of Fiona’s Mr. Toad-inspired art below:
Mr. Toad Foursome
Mr. Toad Foursome with Names
Mr. Toad Halloween
Mr. Toad’s Jolly Ride
Mr. Toad on a Horse
Mr. Toad’s Wild Ride