Though Candy Waters is nonverbal, her paintings speak out for people with autism, making us notice their talent and potential. With her art, Candy tells us to notice the bright side of life, to enjoy the colors and the beauty of our world.
Here is the story of Candy and her family, as told by her parents Robert and Sandy Waters.
Discovering the hidden gem
When Candy was born she had bright red hair and she looked like a little Strawberry Shortcake doll, so beautiful and perfect. As a toddler, Candy started talking and pointing but then suddenly lost these skills.
When Candy was diagnosed with severe autism at age three, doctors informed us she would need lifelong care and might never speak. Back then, if someone had told us that Candy would be a famous artist one day, we would have thought they were crazy!
When Candy was six years old, the executive director of her school in Chicago asked us if Candy could paint a picture for a fundraising event for the school. We answered we were not sure if Candy could paint. We had never tried painting with her, and autism affected her fine motor skills – but we thought we would try, anyway.
To our amazement, Candy painted. She created something that looked like a sun.
Her first painting sold for $100 at the art gallery where the fundraiser was being held. We were ecstatic that others liked her art.
Fast forward to 2013, and Candy’s painting Mr. Sun was selected to be on the cover of the University of California at Irvine’s UCI Magazine Summer Issue. After that, her art career really took off.
Today, our daughter is a beautiful redheaded 15-year-old girl. Although she cannot communicate through words, Candy has used her art to make her voice heard around the world.
Candy’s sources of inspiration
Candy has always loved to be outdoors and we always play the guitar and sing to her. She loves to listen to The Beatles while she paints.
She has a unique, colorful, happy style of painting. She seems to know how colors blend perfectly. When painting, she becomes very happy and laughs, which is priceless. Her trademark is painting Suns.
With her art, she is giving us brief glimpses into her world and allowing us to see what she sees and feel what she feels. It seems like a very happy and beautiful world.
As parents, we are so proud that Candy can express herself through her art. Many artists have said that painting is poetry and poetry is painting, but with words. Candy simply paints pure poetry – she paints with her whole heart and soul.
Candy’s painting happens organically. We keep her paintbrushes in a certain spot in the house. Candy will grab her paintbrush and sit down where she wants to paint. Then we know that it’s time to set up her art supplies.
Painting is very therapeutic for Candy, and it has helped immensely to improve her fine motor skills.
Changing the world without words
Candy’s art is inspiring others with autism to follow their dreams. Children with autism have just as much of a chance to inspire the world, no matter where they are on the autism spectrum.
Candy’s paintings have recently been featured on CBS Sunday Morning Show. Candy’s painting Ray of Hope is prominently displayed in the Dan Marino Foundation’s newly constructed Marino Campus in Fort Lauderdale, Florida. Her painting Pure Consciousness is displayed at the David Lynch Foundation’s main office in New York.
Also, one of Candy’s paintings has gone viral on Facebook with over 300,000 shares, her official FB page has over 100,000 likes from all over the world. Many celebrities also love Candy’s art and are her big fans.
On April 2 — the World Autism Awareness Day — Candy will have an art book published under the title Unspoken Gift: Candy Waters, Autism Artist. The book got its title from actor Joe Mantegna (whose daughter also has autism and paints) who said: “Candy Waters art book is yet another example of the talent that lies within the untapped minds of those who live with autism. Candy’s art is her unspoken gift to all of us.”
Our advice to parents who have a child on the autism spectrum is to never give up faith, love, and hope. Children who have autism can achieve great things; our job as parents and caregivers is to help them find what they like and enable them to pursue their passion. This is true for all disabilities.
Also, it helps to find support for your family when you have a child with autism. One of the great autism organizations that has helped our family so much is Autism Speaks.
Healing from Within
Being a parent of a disabled child can definitely be stressful. Did you know that parents of children with autism have stress levels similar to those of combat soldiers?
On a mission to empower other parents of children with autism with knowledge, we created an Autism Awareness Radio Show The Candy Store on Blog Talk Radio.
One time on the radio show we interviewed Dr. Sarina Grosswald, a researcher and cognitive learning specialist, and talked to her about the practice of Transcendental Meditation (TM) for children with autism and their parents.
This is how we found out more about TM, the evidence-based technique that helps relieve stress and can give you a sense of calm, peace and balance that benefits both your emotional well-being and your overall health. Dr. Grosswald was very knowledgeable and kind to us and talking with her was very informative.
After the interview with Dr. Grosswald, we learned the technique. We have been practicing TM for over two years now. This technique has helped us immeasurably with stress relief.
We honestly recommend TM to any parent, and especially to parents who have a disabled child. We also recommend that people on the autism spectrum themselves learn to practice Transcendental Meditation.
It is our mission now to help spread the word about TM and it’s health benefits to the autism community and autism organizations.
We’ve learned that art and TM can heal.
Faith, Love & Hope,
Robert & Sandy Waters,
Candy’s proud Mom & Dad
To find out more about Candy and her amazing artwork, visit her Facebook page!
Listen to “Faith, Love & Hope,” a song written by Candy’s parents to raise autism awareness: