Keeping Up with Santino’s Dragons

We wanted to share a little update on one of our favorite featured kids from this past year. Back in May, we talked about Santino Stagliano, who was diagnosed with autism more than five years ago. With his parents’ encouragement, Santino was able to direct his love of drawing and dragons to create beautiful t-shirts that he is selling and donating half of the proceeds to the Center for Autism. Best of all, this process had given Santino a boost of self-esteem and a way to connect with people.

Now, fast-forward only a few months and Santino’s Dragons is expanding, doing amazing things. Santino, who is 10 years old, recently visited William Penn Charter school to share his story, his t-shirts and autism awareness with other kids his age. As his dad explains, Santino wasn’t even able to speak to anyone six months ago. And now, he’s talking in front of large groups of kids and fielding questions from students.  For example, while at Penn Charter, he was asked:

How do you make dragons? “It’s what you feel inside, and you just do it,” Santino said.

What special things can you do? “I can climb trees, I can swim fast, and one time I went on this ride that teenagers usually go on, and I wasn’t scared at all.”

Who inspires you? “I get inspired by this person,” he said, pointing to his mom.

Santino also started a program called “Find Your Dragon,” which is designed to help children with autism express themselves and make friends. And if that wasn’t enough, he also chooses one child every month and does something special for them.

What an amazing kid – he is truly an inspiration. I have a feeling this will be one of many updates we’ll be doing about all of the tremendous and impactful work he is doing.

Check out more on Santino’s Dragons Facebook page.

Lynsey, Community Manager



Santino’s Dragon Drawings

Satino Dragon Drawings / Facebook

Satino Dragon Drawings / Facebook

Art can be a powerful outlet, a great means of expressing yourself. This is certainly the case for Santino Stagliano, a 10-year-old boy from South Philly. Santino, who was diagnosed with autism 5 years ago, is called “The Dragon Master” by his little brother – in honor of Santino’s love of these fire-breathing creatures. And when Santino has a bad day, his parents buy him a plain white t-shirt so he can draw a picture of a dragon with markers – always a way to cheer him up.

On one particularly bad day last month – after getting teased by kids at the park – his parents bought him some shirts to draw on, and then Santino’s mom, Lisa, posted pictures of his creations on Facebook. The next day he had requests from a handful of people for shirts – then it turned into 50 requests, then 100, and continuing. Santino is selling them for $5 – he’s already sold 150 and has about 500 more on order.

Best of all, Santino – who chose to donate half the money he raises to the Center for Autism – has found a new sense of self-esteem with his shirt sales. As described by his dad, “There’s a little boy who wouldn’t look at you, he didn’t want to be touched…Now he’s hugging people, high-fiving and taking pictures.”  Amazing!

Check out Santino’s story in full– and visit his Santino’s Dragons Facebook page.

Lynsey, Community Manager


Spotlight On…Artful Adventures at MFA

MFA Boston

MFA Boston

For those of you in the Boston area, or maybe those visiting this summer, the Museum of Fine Arts in Boston offers a “Beyond the Spectrum” program, which features its Artful Adventures class. The program is designed for children ages 8-12 with autism and combines gallery exploration with an art-making activity.

Through this class, participating children can connect with art and cultures of Asia, Europe and the Americas. The Beyond the Spectrum program meets one Saturday per month — each visit lasts an hour and a half (10:30 am – 12 pm). You can sign up online, with the next meeting time of July 6. The cost is $9.50 per child, which includes materials, museum admission and one adult ticket.

If you have participated in this program at Boston MFA, please share your feedback here with us!

Lynsey, Community Manager 

Stripes at CMA


For those of you in the NYC area, you may already be familiar with the Children’s Museum of Art (CMA). It’s a hands-on art museum dedicated to engaging young artists in various programs and self-guided art exploration.  It has a big gallery, media lab, ball pond and other features to introduce and involve children in the arts.

For those of you that may be close by to the museum, you should check into a great program they have called Stripes. Stripes offers a free opportunity for autistic children and their families to engage in visual art making, creative performing experiences and imaginative play. There are two Stripes classes—“Stripes I” focuses on tactile experiences and building creativity and communication skills involving various mediums such as music, movement and yoga. “Stripes II” focuses on using art to build social skills and peer-to-peer relationships and incorporates CMA’s Media Lab and Sound Booth.

Art—particularly creating art—whether it’s music, painting, crafts, etc. is a great way to further enhance skills such as self-expression.  We’ll have to check around for more programs like this one so we can share those with you here.

Lynsey, Community Manager