St. John Vianney teen hopes artwork helps others better understand autism

By Ken Downey Jr. | Trenton Monitor Correspondent

St. John Vianney High School sophomore Alyssa Militello hopes that through her art, she can give the world a better understanding of autism.

“I think it will show people a different and positive view of people who have autism,” the Holmdel school student said. “I’m not 100 percent sure how it will [have an effect], but I hope it’s something good for us members of the autistic community. We have a voice in our art rather than our words.”

Militello, who is on the autism spectrum, has two pieces of art on display through the month of May at the Pollack Gallery at Monmouth University, West Long Branch. Her work is part of the “World Autism Awareness Month Show” that opened in April. She is one of 28 artists whose unique works will be sold to benefit the Autism MVP Foundation and Autism Speaks organizations.

Militello has been involved with art most of her life, becoming interested at a very young age.

“When I was watching TV, I asked my parents, ‘Why aren’t those creatures in our world?’” she said. “They told me that they were just cartoons. Then I started to draw my own characters.

“Those characters became my friends, and they helped me a little bit with my speaking and even some logic,” she continued. “When I didn’t have that many friends in summer camp, they would cheer me up, and they stuck with me ever since. I made a promise to myself to try to get my art on television so that everyone can enjoy it as much as I did.”

Theresa Militello, Alyssa’s mother, feels that her daughter’s art leaves a lasting impact on anyone who views her work.

“Alyssa inspires whomever she comes into contact with,” her mother said. “She exudes positivity; she makes people feel good about themselves. Her art displays the same.”

Militello’s art teachers say that since her first day, they saw something special about her work, too.

“I met Alyssa her freshman year at St. John Vianney. She showed up to class with a stack of artwork to show me. She had created over 50 characters all with special powers,” said Tracy Tutrone who teaches art at the school. “All of Alyssa’s art tells a story. Not everyone is capable of doing that.”

Tutrone says Militello’s work can give others an understanding of what she, and others with autism, can accomplish.

“I think by putting Alyssa’s art out for people to see her, and what she can achieve, is important,” Tutrone said. “Everyone has a talent; it’s just finding it that’s maybe hard. We should look for the beauty in the world, and that is by appreciating all of God’s gifts.”

Alyssa’s work is on display through May 31 at the Pollack Gallery, Monmouth University, 400 Cedar Ave, West Long Branch. The exhibit is free to attend.

For more information, visit www.monmouth.edu.

St. John Vianney High School sophomore Alyssa Militello, center, stands in front of two of her art pieces on display at Monmouth University. She is joined by her art teachers from the Holmdel school – Jaclyn Agnello, Theresa Lau, Michele Langdon (director of student activities), and Tracy Tutrone. Courtesy photo

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