Autistic pupil wins national art contest

Michaela Headford has often wondered what direction her autistic son Kingsley's life would take when he left school.

Michaela Headford has often wondered what direction her autistic son Kingsley's life would take when he left school.

As the 16-year-old approaches adulthood, Ms Headford is aware that his learning disability may limit his options in the world of work or higher education.

But yesterday, with news that Kingsley had won a national art competition, the family saw new avenues opening up for the Ethel Tipple School pupil from King's Lynn.

Kingsley's wax relief representation of the Houses of Parliament was picked to feature in the charity Mencap's Icons of England calendar for 2007.

The artwork, entitled London Skyline, illustrates the month of January on the calendar and is one of 12 images chosen from more than 1,500 entries received from across the country.

Ms Headford expressed her delight at her son's achievement and explained how it had given her family new hope of a bright future for the oldest child.

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"Kingsley has always enjoyed drawing, ever since he was a little boy, but in the past he has focused on drawing pictures of cars and guns," she said.

"To see him, progress to drawing landscapes is absolutely fantastic and we are so proud of him."

Ms Headford said the competition victory had prompted her 14-year-old daughter Meryke, who is also very artistic and has herself won prizes for her work in the past, to wonder whether her brother might be able to go on to attend an art college.

She said: "I don't know whether there is somewhere that can cater for him with his learning difficulties, but it is certainly something to look at.

"It would be lovely to see him pursue his art further. His special needs will make a conventional job harder for him, but maybe he can be an artist."

Kingsley's talent has been nurtured by Ethel Tipple School art teacher Graham Shelton, whose decision it was to enter his work in the Mencap competition.

"The class is quite a small group of year 10 and 11 pupils and everyone had a go at drawing something that represented England.

"I felt that Kingsley's stood out and sent it to Mencap to see what they would say. We were all quite chuffed when we heard that one of ours had got through, and very proud of him - he has achieved a level of national recognition that many artists strive their whole lives for."

Kingsley, who received a case of art supplies as a prize, will be taking GCSE art at the end of the school year.

Speaking about the calendar, Mencap chief executive Jo Williams said: "The artwork is an inspiration to us all and a glorious representation of the different aspects of Englishness."

The calendar is available from Mencap shops and costs £4.99. To order, visit www.mencap.org/shop or call 0207 696 6933.