A Powerful Pair – The Durango Herald
Durango man uses art to raise awareness of his belonging to the specter
Local artist, nonprofit founder and businessman John Truitt uses art to raise awareness of Asperger’s syndrome.
Truitt, a native Texan who moved to Durango in 2016, was diagnosed with Asperger’s and dyslexia at the age of 45. The diagnosis inspired several changes in her life, including painting abstract art and creating the On the Spectrum Foundation in 2019, which aims to empower adults. on the spectrum and advocate for those diagnosed in adulthood.
Prior to establishing the foundation, Truitt worked in the medical, dental and biotechnology fields for over 25 years. He also served as a combat medic in the 25th Infantry Division. In his spare time, he works with disabled veterans through art therapy and mentors parents of children with the spectrum and adults diagnosed with Asperger’s.
Shortly after Truitt’s diagnosis in 2017, he was looking for somewhere to relax and found himself on the doorstep of an art store. Now he is using his own works of abstract art to market the foundation through a new venture, “Art on the Spectrum”. The money collected through the sale of his art is channeled to his On the Spectrum foundation.
“It’s something I can put out there that grabs people’s attention, but creates a story and creates a conversation,” Truitt said in an interview.
Truitt describes his painting as “surfing the spectrum”. He puts on his favorite music and lets his Asperger’s excitement take over. “Stimming” is the abbreviation for self-stimulating behaviors – a series of repetitive physical movements, words or sounds that occur during intense emotional experiences and can also relieve anxiety.
“It allows me to create something that I can do at my own pace that is completely mine,” Truitt said. “For me personally … it’s a huge relief and release and just allows me to calm down.”
Through his art, Truitt has met many others on the spectrum who use art as an outlet. Many famous artists throughout history are believed to have been on the spectrum, including Pablo Picasso.
Truitt has several goals for the foundation, including creating a feature film on Asperger’s syndrome and establishing a center to help people on the spectrum navigate the diagnosis. At the center, Truitt plans to teach people how to practice mindfulness, educate participants about good nutrition, and help people find jobs that match their interests and strengths.
He also plans to reach out to schools and other local entities in Durango to spread the word. Once the resources and programming are established locally, Truitt hopes to replicate the services throughout Colorado and eventually across the United States.
Overall, Truitt’s main goal is to raise awareness and thwart negative misconceptions.
“Asperger’s is by no means a mental disability,” Truitt said.
Her personal diagnosis was a surprise at first, Truitt said, but because of her own misconception of being on the spectrum. Looking back, he said that he often “masks” his behavior in social situations, that is, when spectrum behaviors are hidden to fit into a social situation. For example, a person on the spectrum may suppress the stimming when they meet a new person at a bar.
Women generally mask or camouflage more than men on the spectrum, which contributes to often missed diagnoses. Many women on the spectrum are misdiagnosed as being bipolar because overstimulation can show up as mood swings, Truitt said. Truitt himself has also been misdiagnosed as having bipolar disorder.
“There is a lot of medical misogyny,” he said.
The support of his wife, Ashley, and his longtime friend Gus Dorrell, who sits on the foundation’s board of directors, was key in coming to terms with his diagnosis, Truitt said.
“When I was diagnosed, we were diagnosed,” Truitt said.
Watching Truitt find a relaxing outlet in art and use it to raise awareness about Asperger’s has been amazing, Ashley said.
“It’s really great to see the development of what he’s doing with the colors and the palette,” said Ashley. “It was pretty amazing to watch him develop. “
Truitt’s pursuit to build and lay the foundation is admirable, Dorrell said, and he’s happy to be a part of the effort.
“I think helping others overcome the issues we’ve been treated and treated in makes it very rewarding,” Dorrell said.
To learn more about the On the Spectrum, Asperger or The Spectrum Foundation, email [email protected]