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SpEd Spotlight: Local student finds expression through creativity, art

SpEd Spotlight: Local student finds expression through creativity, art

Ben Wood is not a typical junior at Steamboat Springs High School. He is an artist and aspiring designer who has begun to make his mark on the Steamboat Springs School District and the local art community. Ben is also unique because he has autism and bipolar disorder.

In 2008, his parents adopted him from Pskov, Russia, when he was 3 years old. Three years later, Ben was diagnosed with autism when he was unable to manage transitions between school activities and would become obsessively focused on particular subjects like doors, bridges and tunnels.

As a result, he received an Individualized Education Plan, or IEP, which allowed him special accommodations to assist his learning.

Ben and his family moved to Steamboat Springs in 2018 as he began middle school. The change was difficult on Ben as he was entering adolescence. He began showing signs of extreme anxiety, depression, and darkness.

The family’s situation became unmanageable in 2019. Ben was hospitalized in a long-term treatment center. After nearly 18 months of treatment and a breakthrough in his medication, Ben’s moods and ability to cope in daily tasks became manageable. He was released from treatment in early 2021 and returned to his family in Steamboat Springs.

He has since thrived through creating art in his school and throughout the community.

Like many people with autism, Ben manifests a rare artistic talent. His ability to see structures and draw them in accurate perspective in freehand is unparalleled. He has been recognized by Steamboat Creates and has a couple of sketches displayed at the Art Depot.

Ben often takes commissions to draw people’s homes or portraits of their loved ones. Most recently, he created the Steamboat Sailors’ anchor on the wall in the high school common area, a focal point of the high school. The anchor has become a symbol of the spirit of the school and is often used for portraits for staff and community members.

He is also participating with other high school students across Colorado in the ACE — architecture, construction, engineering — Mentorship program. Their project is to design the new extension of Concourse C at Denver International Airport.

Thanks to telemedical treatment and the dedication of Steamboat Springs High School special education staff, teachers and paraprofessionals, Ben is thriving in his studies and aspiring to be an architect or engineer someday.

This column was provided by the Special Education Advisory Committee. If you’re interested in learning more or getting involved with the Special Education Advisory Committee, please contact Pete Wood at