Sept. 22, 2011Vol. 42, Issue 1

Wind, Water, Earth, and Fire: A Creative Workshop for Individuals with Autism

by Rebecca Lytle, Adapted Physical Education

At the onset of the program, there were participants (individuals with autism), co-participants (support people), student volunteers, and facilitators, each with their own preconceived role. However, within a short time it became clear we were all participants. Roles became blurred as we learned from each other, each trying new experiences. For me, it was the first time to write poetry; for others it was photography, drumming, painting, or movement.

The integration of activities, ideas, and roles made this a special experience. The theme, Freedom in Elements, created a focus for the facilitators on nature and the four elements of fire, water, wind, and earth. This theme served as a thread that tied together all of the activities, and everyone participating, including me, felt “freedom” as we explored different media.

Adapted Physical Activity photoThe beauty of creativity is that often there is no preconceived notion of what the final product will look like, but rather it unfolds along the way. There is no possible way I could have imagined the creativity that would ultimately unfold from this collection of people. On the last day of the program, an exhibition was held which included art, poetry, an original theatre production, musical movement performances, and an original song written for the camp and presented via YouTube all the way from India.

Recently, a participant’s mother shared that her daughter has been writing poetry since the summer program and recently read a piece at a wedding. For another, it was her first opportunity to have a college dorm experience, living with unfamiliar people and making new friends. For others, new connections were made. It was an opportunity for all of us to discover hidden talents within ourselves and, perhaps, open new doors for future ideas, careers, and opportunities.

The creation of movement, photos, painting, and plays was a joyous experience. The next collaboration of this team will take place in Mumbai, India, in January 2012, coordinated by the Child-n-You Educational Resource and Therapy Center.

Here is the link for the performance of “Remember Me.” The lyrics (printed below) were written by Dr. Parasuram Ramamoorthi, a facilitator of the program. The music and performance is by Samuel Ashish Marcus, an individual with autism in India. This song was written and performed for the first Freedom in Elements camp in honor of Chico’s original Hooker Oak in Bidwell Park.

Come meet me at Hooker Oak

Let us play ’round the Hooker Oak

Time-tested, Bidwell loved

Come, lie down beside me

Let us watch the stars and moon

The gentle breeze, will soothe the soul


Take a handful of earth from around the oak

Take it home, plant a sapling for a tree

Pour a pitcher of water

And watch it grow

And when you do that, do remember me.


Come meet me at the Hooker Oak

Let’s play round the Hooker Oak

When you touch its trunk

You are touching time

Embracing Chico’s history

Joy, love, life so free

Two nations join in this game with you.


Come, let us run around the green oak

Recreate  history

Of this beloved tree


Take a handful of earth from around the oak

Take it home, plant a sapling for a tree

Pour a pitcher of water

And watch it grow

And when you do that, do remember me.