Article by Lisa Crites for Florida Today Board Member Digital Arts for Autism
“Former Disney Animators create opportunities for Autistic Students“
Woody Woodman, an artist who helped create several Disney animated legends such as “Mulan” is teaching students on the “autism spectrum” to unleash their
creativity through animation. In addition to “Mulan,” veteran Disney feature animation artist Woody Woodman also worked on films like “Tarzan” and “Lilo & Stitch,” and is one of the many instructors at Digital Arts for Autism, or DAFA, the program operated by Orlando’s Elite Animation Academy, where 19-year-old Adaryl “AJ” Beasley is currently enrolled. A.J. was diagnosed with autism at the age of three. Art is a powerful force for autistic individuals. Creating art promotes mental and emotional growth and a natural way to explore and express feelings. According to AJ’s parents, he is thriving in his animation studies. “It’s exciting to see him look forward to class,” said AJ’s mother, Micarla Beasley. “He is motivated to learn.” During AJ’s senior year of high school, he began showing interest in designing art on his computer. Micarla and husband Adaryl Beasley Sr. researched programs for their son and Elite Animation Academy had just opened its Digital Arts for Autism program. The syllabus, designed specifically for adults on the autism spectrum, was perfect; AJ’s classes are small, and the material is always very well explained. “The online classes have been amazing for our son. He is always excited to see what new design is waiting for him to recreate,” said Beasley Sr. Added Micarla: “He has grown so much in the last few months. We are grateful we found the right fit and we are looking forward to his continued progress.” Elite Academy was founded by former Disney animators. The studio provides general art and animation training with experienced movie, cartoon and print animation instructors. DAFA, only for adults diagnosed with Autism Spectrum Disorder, or ASD, trains students for specialized jobs in animation and publishing.