Nilay is One World School’s first art exhibit, and it serves two important purposes. First, the exhibit serves as an avenue for our students to authentically express themselves. Second, it serves as a fundraiser for our school’s Facilities Expansion Project for School Year 2018 – 2019.
Although the number of typically developing students in One World School is increasing every year, many of our students have special needs, including, but not limited to, autism spectrum disorder, Down syndrome, cerebral palsy, attention deficit hyperactivity disorder, and specific learning disabilities. Common among many of these individuals is the challenge to express themselves through standard means of communication, such as speaking, writing, as well as body language. Because of their difficulties with verbal communication, many often do not understand their thoughts, feelings, or desires. As a necessity, their teachers, therapists, families and caregivers must assist them with finding and using the right words. Unfortunately, this can still lead to misinterpretation and misunderstanding. What they truly want to express can become lost in the words others try to use, with them and for them. This, however, in no way means that they have less to say, less to express, or less to share.
Their struggle with words is evident, yet what is clear and convincing is their strength in seeing, understanding, and interpreting the world through images. If we are to value this strength in visual skills just as equally as we do other means of communication, then what better way for our students to express themselves – their authentic selves – than through art?
In the months leading to the art exhibit, our art teacher, Precious Jewel Gamboa, conceptualized how all the individual students at school would be provided the process, and ultimately the voice, to express themselves in the most authentic ways. Included in this process was the exploration of different media, techniques, and even settings. The goal was for each individual to have and to feel the most freedom possible with self-expression through art. As expected,
the challenge that Precious encountered, particularly with those individuals who had the most difficulty with communication, was understanding what each wanted to express. To overcom
e this, she gave time, let go of control, and kept an open mind to ensure each individual had the freedom to explore and to express. Precious valued what each individual chose to share through their artwork, including their interests, fixations, and stims. What resulted in this process was simply amazing! From the sounds of their laughter, the smiles on their faces, and the joy in their eyes, there was no doubt each one immensely enjoyed creating their final pieces. Each artwork created was what each individual wanted to express.
Nilay is the Tagalog word for reflect. As the audience, it is our responsibility to reflect. When you look at each artwork at the exhibit, you will see a story that is being told by the artist. When you look at all the pieces together, you will see a collective story told by all of our artists. What is each individual artist telling us? Through the images they’ve created in their artwork, what are they sharing with us that could not have been shared using words? Nilay asks all of us to reflect on what it means to express oneself, to share, to communicate, and to be authentic.
All of our students, ages 2 – 30+ and of all abilities, will have at least one piece of artwork on display and for auction at the exhibit. The proceeds from the art auction will go towards the school’s Facilities Expansion Project for School Year 2018 – 2019. As more local and international families discover One World School, our enrollment and programs continue to grow. So many individuals with special needs fail and are rejected, bullied, expelled, or just left out in many schools. One World School welcomes these individuals with open arms, promising that they will thrive and learn together with their typically developing classmates. The expansion project will create the much needed space for our school’s growing population, as well as provision for its future middle and high school and sustainable employment programs. To date, we are the only school in Manila that welcomes and educates a full range of individuals of all abilities, including those with significant special education needs, gifted and talented students, and those who just learn differently.