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Amanda LaMunyon: A Dream Unfolds

Amanda LaMunyon – God Bless America

Amanda LaMunyon is now 15 years old.  She began painting when she was 7 years old.  She was diagnosed with Asperger’s Syndrome at age 8.  She lives in Oklahoma where KSBI-TV in Oklahoma City named her one of Oklahoma’s five most talented kids in 2005.  And now she truly is a most talented adolescent.  She has her own website at www.amandalamunyon.com.

Amanda began reading at age 4.  In kindergarten, instead of cutting out pictures to illustrate the ABC’s, Amanda drew her own. That seemed to be the first hint of her artistic talent.  But Amanda had a hard time staying in school; she could repeat all the rules but had a hard time adhering to them. She simply couldn’t sit still.

Amanda’s mother thought that maybe the spark of artistic talent, if nourished, might help with some of the troublesome behaviors, and might provide a way for Amanda to express herself as well.  Mom sought out a teacher for Amanda, a gentle, patient woman with a sweet smile who admitted to Mom she had never taught a 7 year old; her students were mostly adults.

 The session, at her teacher’s home, was two hours long.  Mom fretted about what might be happening in those two hours. As it turned out, some wonderful things happened. When Mom came to pick up her daughter both she and the teacher were dripping with paint. Amanda led her mom proudly to some paintings she had done—some watermelons. They were beautiful. And the teacher—“This girl can paint!” she exclaimed.

And paint she can. Some of her pieces are displayed on this site and many more appear on her website. She has won many awards for her artwork. Amanda also loves to sing and not only sings those songs, but paints impressions of them as well. She also writes. One of her poems is posted on this site, with her permission of course.

Once tapped, her artistic ability was a means of expression and outlet. As that talent flowed forth, so did her confidence and self-esteem. She became more outgoing and instead of retreating into her world, she now describes that world, and the challenges (and opportunities) it presents in frequent presentations about “the world of autism” she lives in, but is emerging from.

 Amanda has had a special opportunity by being enrolled in the Duke University Gifted and Talented Program, which includes gifted and talented children from around the United States; the fact that her special “gifted and talented” ability was accompanied by Asperger’s Syndrome did not exclude her from that important program, nor should it. She is included in the book A Girls Guide to Achieving in the Arts by Dr. Kristen Stephens and Dr. Frances A. Karnes from the Duke Program. She also is included in the book Girls Under the Umbrella of Autism Spectrum Disorders by Dr. Lori Ernsperger and Danielle Wendell.  In fact, one of Amanda’s paintings provides the cover for that book. Amanda has been featured in many other newspaper, magazine and television stories. So confident and poised is she, that she entered the National Miss Pageant Oklahoma and was in the top five in talent and acting and was 1st runner up in best resume. She presently is NAMISS Spokesperson, Oklahoma with her poem “A Little Secret.” And Amanda has received a number of state and national awards for community service in fundraising efforts for autism research and children’s health.

Amanda’s website provides some links to the stories about her and her accomplishments But perhaps the best way to summarize Amanda is in her own words:

A Little Secret
She looks like any other little girl.
But she holds a secret you might never suspect.
There is something about her.
She often talks about Ancient Egypt and nothing else,
Even if you don’t want to hear about it.
She is very well meaning, but frequently misunderstood.
Some say she is a “little professor.”
She knows a lot about what interests her.
Her clothes bother her a lot.
Just a little tag might feel like sand paper.
Food needs to taste and smell right or she won’t eat it.
She thinks she can’t go a week without ice cream.
Noise in the lunchroom really gets to be confusing, and She wants to say Be Quiet!!!!
Light……..is 100 times brighter to her. Oh, what a world she lives in.

What is this little secret she holds?

It’s called Asperger’s Syndrome, a high-functioning form of autism.
Many people are suspected of having it.
Einstein, Michael Angelo.
1 out of every 166 children will be diagnosed with autism this year.

How do I know so much about Asperger’s Syndrome?
I know because I have it.
Some say it is a disability.
But I am a girl with dreams.
I will take what God has given me.
Along with the challenge and use it.
To fulfill the purpose He has for me.
Let me say to you, If you know someone who seems a little different Look for something good.
It will be there. It may be just “a little secret” waiting to be told.
A dream waiting to unfold.
Update

Amanda LaMunyon wins national autism award

Each year the Autism Society of America gives out national awards to a number of persons who have made significant contributions to better understanding and support of public education, research and treatment efforts in autism nationwide.  One of these honors is the Wendy F. Miller Recognition Award given to a parent, a professional and an individual with autism who demonstrate exceptional dedication, effort or achievment.

This year the Individual with Autism award goes to Amanda LaMunyon. One need only view her accomplishments to understand why she was chosen this year’s Autism person of the year recipient.
Congratulations, Amanda.

Update—August 30, 2011

Amanda LaMunyon wins a Kohl’s “Kid’s Who Care” Scholarship

Amanda LaMunyon continues to receive national awards for her efforts to promote public information and awareness about autism. Amanda is the recipient of a $10,000 scholarship in the Kids Who Care national recognition program for youths between the ages of 6-18 “who help make their community a better place to live.” Of 37,000 nominees nationwide, Amanda was one of 10 national final winners for her efforts to raise awareness about autism and Asperger’s syndrome. Through her voluntary efforts, she has raised over $1 million for that purpose. Amanda has an updated website at www.amandalamunyon.com with new videos, new artwork and new general information about her remarkable abilities and efforts.

Update—May 18, 2009

Amanda LaMunyon—A Middle Level School National Honoree

Each year, 10 young Americans are selected for national recognition in the Prudential Spirit of Community and Scholarship Awards program based on their outstanding achievements in community service and school success. Five students are High School Honorees and five students are Middle Level School Honorees chosen in a national competition.  For 2009 Amanda LaMunyon, age 14, from Enid, Oklahoma was chosen as one of the five such outstanding students and volunteers representing Middle Level Schools.

The bio on Amanda accompanying the award reads as follows:
Presently Amanda is in eighth grade at Oklahoma Bible Academy. She performs at charitable events, sells cards and prints of her paintings to raise money for sick children, and draws upon her experience with autism to educate others about the disorder. After Amanda was diagnosed at age 8 with Asperger’s Syndrome, a form of autism, her parents encouraged various activities to find something that will help her focus. “Thankfully I found that I could paint, and I learned to focus of something I loved,” Amanda said. She discovered she had the ability to help others when she gave one of her paintings to a former teacher who had cancer and later learned that it had greatly lifted her spirits when she was dying. “I couldn’t believe something I and done meant so much,” she said. “This changed the entire direction of my life.”

One of five outstanding Middle Level School students in America! What an honor.

And Amanda continues to be a very busy girl. She will be competing this month in the America’s National Teenager event. If selected for that honor, Amanda intends to bring more visibility to concerns about autism overall, but more specifically to overcoming its challenges on an individual basis. She feels that as a spokesperson for such a cause “I can make a difference.”  She would. Stay tuned.

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For more information, please contact:
Darold A. Treffert, MD
St. Agnes Hospital, Fond du Lac
Wisconsin Clinical Professor, Department of Psychiatry University of Wisconsin Medical School, Madison
Personal website: www.daroldtreffert.com
E-mail: daroldt@charter.net