Kaitlin Moncol is a 22-year-old artist from Raleigh who was diagnosed with autism when she turned 2. As Kaitlin prepares for her first independent art show, we asked her and her mom to share some thoughts about her life, her art, and autism. Below we share their responses, edited for brevity.
Kaitlin’s art is hanging at Cup A Joe, 3100 Hillsborough St., Raleigh, throughout June. Many of the pieces will be available for purchase, and she is also available for commission work. An artist’s reception is set for 6:30-8:30 p.m. Wednesday, June 10. The Autism Society of NC will also be there to provide information and resources. To see more of Kaitlin’s art, follow her on Instagram.
Q&A with Kaitlin Moncol
When did you get started as an artist? Tell us a little bit about that history, what you like about art, etc.
I think I really started my art when I was young, possibly with my first CAP worker when I was 4 or 5. She used a lot of art to work with my communication and fine motor skills and other tasks. Art became my favorite elective in middle and high school. I love that I can be creative and work with all sorts of materials. There is no right or wrong with art, which is great because with every other subject, there is a right or wrong. I love working with animals and abstract ideas, and you will see this in my art. While this is my first independent show, I have had one of my pieces juried and it hung at Duke Raleigh Hospital several years ago.
What inspires you to create a particular piece? Is there anything you want to accomplish with your art?
When I work on each piece, I like to see just where it takes me, unless it’s a commission piece. I like to make people feel happy when they see my art or put them into a happy state of mind. Some prompts for pieces have come from trying out new mediums, a blank canvas, a new idea, my mom, or even a need to relieve stress. Art is a huge way to relieve stress for me.
Tell us about your job at Jerry’s Artarama.
I have worked at Jerry’s Artarama in Raleigh for almost three years part-time. I stock art supplies, help customers find what they need for art projects, run the cash register occasionally and do just about anything else that is needed. It’s helpful to have my job coach from ASNC to keep me organized and to understand new things. I like that I get to be surrounded by people that do art at my job and that I get to make shelves straight – it’s very calming. Having a job means I get a paycheck to buy things I need and want for myself. Having a job means I have a place to make friends, and I get to go out in the community and help others.
Your mom says you have some funny stories from work. Care to share any?
My funniest story from working in retail is the customer who came in to buy molding material. She was afraid of the dentist, so she was going to make a mold of her dentures to make new ones. I had to make sure all of her materials were nontoxic, but I did try to get her to go see the dentist instead. There is someone out there with homemade teeth and I helped!
Q&A with Kat Moncol, Kaitlin’s mother
Tell us a little bit about Kaitlin.
Kaitlin had very classic symptoms early on of autism and was diagnosed at age 2. We were quite fortunate to have fantastic early intervention and to locate good support systems along the way. She was nonverbal until about age 5, but you would never know it now! We discovered early on that art was a fantastic way of communication and stress relief for Kaitlin. She could let us know her needs and wants by drawing or let out her frustration by coloring. Finger-painting, working with clay and other media became a window into sensory integration for her, and her artwork grew and changed as she did.
How has ASNC improved her life over the years?
The Autism Society of North Carolina was there for David and me as soon as we received Kaitlin’s diagnosis! Literally, I made a phone call, and two days later, a huge packet of information landed in our mailbox at home. I then showed up in ASNC’s offices the next day to discover what would become an extension of our family. We are so very grateful for ASNC. Kaitlin started receiving services through CAP/Innovations waiver at age 4 with ASNC, and those services have helped her improve greatly with daily living skills and community skills. Kaitlin has a wonderful sense of independence for a young woman with her needs, and the support provided by ASNC has led to her being and feeling successful.
What do you think having a job has meant for her?
Kaitlin absolutely loves her job at Jerry’s Artarama in Raleigh. As we all know, employment for folks with autism is just difficult…to find, to do, and to keep. ASNC provides Kaitlin with employment supports and helped Kaitlin with finding this job and getting hired. Her job coach also assists her with making certain she does her job requirements correctly, learns any new skills, communicates with management, and any other number of item that you can think of that are necessary to be successful in a retail job. Bringing home a paycheck, feeling part of a work-family, giving back to the community, being successful, doing a job well, making friends, and having a sense of freedom and independence are just a few of the ways I can see that Kaitlin benefits from her 15 hours of work each week. Kaitlin is the hardest worker ever, and my favorite part of her job is that she is making new friends.
What are you particularly proud of about Kaitlin?
Kaitlin is not only a hard worker at work, but she works hard, period. We were told in those early years not to get our hopes up about the future, even about her language production. Kaitlin has gone against all the odds and is not only talking but is far more successful than we could have ever dreamed. A lot of support goes into Kaitlin being successful, but the bottom line is that Kaitlin does the hard work herself in the end. She will always have autism and that is OK, but she does not let that define her, nor do we. Kaitlin is always Kaitlin first, and she makes sure everyone knows that. It takes a village for sure, but Kaitlin leads that village!
Tags: ASNC, autism, autism advocacy, autism art, autism awareness, autism nc, autism north carolina, autism society north carolina, Autism Society of North Carolina, Autism spectrum