Pixel Perfect ASD Artistry

How Vita Henderson-Chan, a versatile artist with ASD, challenges and transcends artistice expectations.

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Vita Henderson-Chan, a 28-year-old artist, filmmaker, graphic, web designer, as well as a digital artist, lives with high-functioning autism and serves as the creative director of Light of Prometheus, a thriving digital creative agency she founded in Hong Kong.

An autism diagnosis sheds light on behavior

Vita's story began in St Albans, England, where her extraordinary mathematical abilities and high non-verbal reasoning IQ were obvious from a young age. However, her parents and teachers also noticed social and behavioral patterns that set her apart from other children.

"I was an incredibly sensitive child. The glare of fluorescent lights would make me scream. I often avoided playgrounds due to the overwhelming noise. Carpets felt unbearably scratchy, and maintaining eye contact proved to be quite challenging. Teachers frequently mistook my difficulty in communicating and engaging in disagreements as signs of inattention," Vita shares.

Vita was already 11 when she received her autism diagnosis. A member of the special education needs learning support staff at St Albans High School recognized her condition, and it grew clear that Vita wasn’t just an intelligent child struggling with unpredictable mood swings.

"The staff member conducted a screening and suggested that I had Asperger's, which was the term for high-functioning autism at that time. She handed me a copy of The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night-Time and asked if I could relate to the autistic protagonist. After reading it, I thought, 'Yeah, we're quite similar.’"

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Vita embraces her unique perspective, finding creativity within her autism and synesthesia.

Creative advantages can accompany an autism diagnosis

Vita has found that being on the spectrum gives her a creative edge, especially her synesthesia, a perceptual phenomenon commonly associated with autism.

"When(ever) I hear sounds or auditory cues, I instantly visualize moving images. It's as if the conversion from sound to visuals happens instantaneously in my mind," she explains.

With synesthesia and autism, you can become hyper-focused. Many individuals on the spectrum, including myself, excel when given a task that captivates our interest.

"I created an AI film where I generated, processed, and animated images. Although I'm not a proficient technical animator, I found alternative methods to achieve the desired results, avoiding software that I disliked. It involved a lot of problem-solving based on my past experiences. While I had never made an AI film before,  I didn’t watch any tutorials, I just worked it out based on past experiences."

Autism involves a different way of communicating

At the same time, Vita acknowledges that her difficulty with communication sometimes comes off as a lack of empathy. Her therapist once explained that while neurotypicals often communicate with "intuitive empathy," individuals on the autism spectrum tend to rely on "acquired empathy," which means using positive social interactions to learn empathy.

"I struggle with nuanced communication. Interpreting jokes or discerning when someone is being serious can be challenging for me. Additionally, expressing myself in a linear and concise manner poses difficulties. So, I often resort to drawing to convey my thoughts."

Vita mentally rehearses social interactions in advance and encourages her friends and colleagues to be as direct as possible with her . "I don't believe that neurodivergent individuals are bad at communication. It's more that we struggle to adapt to the repressed and verbose communication style prevalent among neurotypicals, which often prioritizes politeness over honesty." Vita has plenty of close friends, and she considers herself highly sociable and a skilled public speaker. "I went from being a classic introvert to a total extrovert."

An extraordinary journey of creativity with high-functioning autism

Vita's story highlights the resilience and boundless potential of individuals on the autism spectrum, and her remarkable achievements as an artist, filmmaker, and creative entrepreneur are an inspiring reminder to families that an autism diagnosis can simply mean the start of a life filled with creativity and passion.

Vita Words of Advice

  • Encourage your child to pursue subjects or hobbies they are genuinely interested in.
  • Provide praise and affirmation to children on the spectrum, especially girls with high-functioning autism.  Negative messages can have a detrimental effect on their self-esteem.
  • Help your child connect with a community of neurodivergent individuals from a young age.