Faith Butterfield was diagnosed with autism spectrum disorder when she was 2 years old.
Butterfield, now a 20-year-old fine arts major from Pomona attending Citrus College, lives with autism spectrum disorder.
She said she promotes inclusion of all people and continues to persevere and develop despite any trials and tribulations she may face.
According to the Autism Speaks Organization, autism spectrum disorder is a broad range of conditions that can be identified as “challenges with social skills, repetitive behaviors, speech and nonverbal communication, as well as by unique strengths and differences.”
“Autism is that you are unique and you were born different and you want to be included in a society,” Butterfield said. “And you want no stereotypes and break down barriers.”
Butterfield’s education has been unconventional at times. Tammy Butterfield, Faith’s mother, said that before her daughter entered kindergarten, she knew the alphabet, numbers, could read one or two sentences at a time, and was pretty advanced for her age.
Butterfield is bilingual in English and Spanish and says she has plans to learn French.However, the school she was placed in decided that even though she was on track with the educational standards, her autism mandated that she was placed in the cognitively delayed classroom with other autistic students.
Butterfield said this “autistic child” label given by teachers and having to be separated from her peers really bothered her. She said from that point she remembers feeling excluded and in some ways, ostracized.
However, the Butterfield family continued to fight for her inclusion and they filed a state complaint in order to have her integrated with the rest of the students, which took a couple years before she was finally able to join the traditional classroom for third grade.
She said the other students would help her learn how to interact and play together, while she would teach them things that made her happy, like the “sound of smell,” which occurs when stimulation of a sense leads to a connection to another sense or cognitive pathway.
Butterfield is always accompanied by either her mother or father, who come to classes with her for a variety of reasons.
“Someone’s got to be here,” Tammy Butterfield said. “One is for safety, the other is for interpretation and third is behavioral therapy, just in case.”
Tammy Butterfield said her daughter has been drawing since the age of three, had her first art show at the Claremont Art Museum in 2004 was published in “Artism: The Art of Autism,” which is a collection of works by autistic individuals.
Butterfield was recognized as a savant, or a person with a development disability who exhibits incredible talent and capabilities beyond the norm by the Academy Savant when she was younger.
Butterfield has a few creative projects already out there, and some currently in progress.
She has a book that is nearing the publishing phase entitled “Mouse in The Penthouse,” which chronicles the story of an adventurous mouse who Butterfield says relates to her in many ways.
Butterfield also does a lot of work with Spectrum Laboratory, which gives autistic artists a chance to create original pieces and gives them a platform to share with others. Autistic creators and professionals work together to gain more experience with their craft.
According to the Spectrum Laboratory mission statement they aim to “encourage a creative environment that educates and entertains. Whatever challenges or disabilities our artists face, our mission is to let them be heard!” (http://www.speclabs.org/mission.html).
Butterfield attended the Los Angeles Times Festival of Books April 22 and 23 in order to meet fans of her work and so she can meet artists and writers who influence her.
Butterfield said she enjoys history and English as well as art because she likes to tell stories.
Her artist statement is, “I tell truth through history.”
Animators and creators such as Walt Disney, Chuck Jones, Eric Goldberg, and Tim Burton, who is thought to be on the autism spectrum, have all had a creative influence on Butterfield.
A few of her favorite animated movies and cartoons include “Finding Nemo,” “The Fairly OddParents,” and “Zootopia,” which all include themes of individuals who don’t quite fit in their society, but find a way to overcome and thrive, just like Butterfield.
Butterfield is extremely motivated in terms of her future career goals, but is working at her own pace.
After her goals at Citrus are met, she wants to go to an art school and continue to develop her craft as an animator and writer.
“I want to be the next Walt Disney or Steven Spielberg,” Butterfield said.
Butterfield’s parents and professors encourage her to have a growth mindset and to take her education at her own pace while continuing to promote her message of including all individuals with disabilities, especially those affected by autism.
Butterfield said she also wants autistic people to trust that they aren’t going to be institutionalized or in a psychiatric hospital just for being autistic and hopes people can eventually end all autism stigmas and stereotypes.
Butterfield’s journey and work can be found on several platforms, such as Blogger, Tumblr at http://faithbutterfield.tumblr.com and by visiting her YouTube channel.