The story of Nadia Chomyn (1967 - 2015) is remarkable. Born to Ukrainian parents who moved to England in the 1960’s , she was diagnosed as severely autistic. She needed help dressing and feeding and was unable to effectively communicate and yet from the age of 3 was able to draw superbly. She broke all the accepted rules of the development of graphic representation in children. That is, she never went through the usual childlike stage of scribble, stick figures etc and was able to draw seemingly without motivation.
Once finished she would push the drawing away or draw over it. Her drawings raised questions about the relationship between the conscious and instinctive mind. She was at her most productive between the ages of 3 & 9 and when her drawings were published in 1977, they created quite a stir. She came to the notice of the renowned neurologist Oliver Sachs and her remarkable talent is still frequently cited in textbooks on developmental psychology.
Her inspiration seems to have come mainly from picture books, especially the Ladybird series, whose pictures were often based on photographic images. Her drawings show a clear understanding of single point perspective, overlapping and the correct use of proportion. Throughout this period, she was very passive and totally unresponsive to social engagement.
From about the age of 9, Nadia gradually lost the ability to draw realistically and eventually her drawing ceased completely. Whilst there have been other autistic artists and savants identified and studied over the years, none have shown such a prodigious talent at such a young age.
“As yet there is no single explanatory theory for her prodigious talent. But, without question, Nadia’s drawings introduced many psychologists to the conundrum that is autism.” THE GUARDIAN
Sources: The Guardian
: The Secret of Drawing - BBC 4