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An Exceptional Story: Paolo Creates an Artistic New Life

We're sharing an article Exceptional Children's Foundation (ECF) wrote about Lanterman client Paolo.

When Paolo moved with his family from the Philippines to Los Angeles, he was in his early 20s. He wanted to make friends, but found being in a new environment with a new language a challenge that often left him frustrated and unable to communicate with many people.

Paolo's parents visited Frank D. Lanterman Regional Center to learn about local programs for adults with special needs that could engage and support Paolo, as well as provide opportunities for him to socialize with peers. They mentioned to their service coordinator that Paolo was interested in a creative program, and were referred to ECF's Art Centers Program (

One visit to ECF's Downtown L.A. art studio and Paolo enthusiastically enrolled. He had taken some art classes in the Philippines, but had never seen a fully-outfitted fine art studio like this. He also responded well to the nurturing approach of ECF's art instructors. Once he started working in the studio, he was able to relax, increase his technical abilities and develop his own unique artistic process.

Over the next two years, Paolo came to trust his own sense of style, reflected in his increasingly complicated and impressive ceramic pieces. He regards his artistic practice as his job, and gets very excited when he sells a piece on ( or has a creation exhibited at ECF's DAC Gallery (

Socially, Paolo has become more outgoing, both at home and in the art studio. While he is still developing his English skills, he can effectively communicate with staff and other artists through use of gestures. He has also developed a keen sense for interpreting other people's body language, allowing him to understand and participate in daily interactions and activities.

"Paolo likes to build things and has a natural understanding of how objects and materials fit together - like an architect," says Madga Audifred, ECF art instructor. "He is also extremely helpful and caring to all his peers; he keeps an eye on everyone."