Va. Beach high schooler’s project aims to change attitudes toward autism


A Virginia Beach high school student is changing the look of a building in hopes of changing the way people look at autism.

She is painting a mural for her senior project in the Global Studies and World Languages Academy at Tallwood High School.

The idea came to her last summer. The mural is to highlight neurodiversity with the idea of combating discrimination based on neurological differences like autism.

An office building at 207 Business Park Drive is Shannon Wilms’ canvas, “I knew I wanted to do puzzle pieces cause that’s the symbol for autism and it’s very recognizable.”

Transforming the human heart is her inspiration, “To go from something ugly like people discriminating against people with autism to something beautiful, and that’s we become more accepting and we break social barriers.”

Wilms’ mom, Janet, could not be more proud. “Her goal was to try to match up people who maybe wouldn’t work together before and I think it’s going great!”

Two dozen students from special education classes, the art department and Global Studies worked side by side Friday learning about each other and sharing stories. “I’ve had some mental heath issues, and had some in my family, so it’s nice to see things like this where … it’s not addressing mental health specifically … but just that acceptance of something different,” one student said.

When the mural is finished, Wilms hopes more transformations will begin as people who see it spread the message.

“We can work together and make something beautiful.”

She hopes to be finished by Sunday.

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