“I believe Autistic people should be valued more than we are and to be taken seriously as experts on autism.” -Lucas Ksenhuk
Lucas Ksenhuk is an 18-year-old Autistic artist from Brazil. Lucas believes his art can help people and sees it as a way to transform his own life and that of others, bringing independence and recognition to the spectrum. In the feature interview last week, Lucas discussed his life experience being autistic and how he became a recognized visual artist.
Below is a transcript of a recent follow-up Zoom call I had with Lucas Ksenhuk and his mother Tatiana Ksenhuk. Also in attendance were Nereide Santa Rosa, author and owner of Underline Publishing (who published Lucas’ new book A Real Story Created with Colorful Lines), and Isabel Flores who translated between English and Portugese for the call. The transcript has been edited for clarity and approved by all parties.
In our meeting, Lucas and his mother discussed the creation of his new book and shared some specific experiences he had with bullying in school. Lucas hopes that the sharing of his experiences might be instructive to others on the spectrum and their families.
What is the story behind the story?
Tatiana: It started last year; it was October. I was feeling like an incompetent mother because I saw Lucas’ work, and I didn’t know what I could do to express his work in a more relevant way. It was late in the middle of the night, and I searched Google to find out about artists outside of Brazil. Then I came across a site for Focus Brazil. It’s a foundation based in the United States that deals with the Brazilian community outside of Brazil. They value professionals, they have awards for all types of art, performing arts, literature, and press. I came across this and started writing for everybody as part of this foundation.
I started writing for the people from the foundation, and I didn’t know it at the time, but I was writing for Nereide Santa Rosa, [author and owner of Underline Publishing]. Nereide is in charge of the New York part of Focus Brazil. I found out the next day that Nereide answered me and had proposed this book where Lucas would tell his story. So I’m very grateful for Nereide’s sensibility and this opportunity to give us the chance to do this.
Lucas: Yes, that’s exactly how it started, and I was also very happy and grateful for the opportunity to write this book. It was a little different because it would be the first time I was doing that-writing a book, and I started having to talk about my childhood, the things that I remember, and my mom also had a lot of things that she remembered as I was growing up, so it was a little bit hard, but look at us now.
Would you describe it as a memoir, a guidebook, or both?
Lucas: I would say both.
Could you elaborate on a specific story related to bullying or that highlights something important in your book?
Lucas: I can share a story when I was the victim of bullying. I can share with you something that happened with me at my school. It was very clear that there were people who don’t accept anything that is different. It it’s different from them, they don’t accept it, and they actually consider it a weakness. So I had boys who would tease me a lot, and one particular time that I remember as a child, there was this game–I don’t recall the name of the game–but it was a game where everybody had a ball and we were playing and these boys started teasing me pretty heavily. They called me names and were teasing me and running from me. At that moment, all I could feel was confusion. I was very confused and scared, and all I could do was cry because I couldn’t understand what was happening.
Tatiana: I just wanted to share with you because I think it’s necessary, that when I went to pick him up from school, I remember he would run to the car. He would put his legs together on the seat and just cry, cry, cry. He had trouble speaking. He didn’t speak. He was perfectly imitating animal sounds, but he could not speak. It’s so painful to recall this because I could see that he would cry so deeply. It was such a deep cry, so profound that I knew he was suffering. I knew he could comprehend what those boys were doing to him. There were a lot of things that he wouldn’t understand, but he knew that that was not okay. He was a very innocent boy.
What age was this?
Tatiana: 9 years-old
Did you ever experience adults in your life (teachers or therapists, for example) who would bully you or treat you inappropriately because they misunderstood autism?
Lucas: Yes. Always. I remember being a child and having adults who would just not understand. There is one story about a teacher. I recall this teacher who used to tease me a lot. I was constantly teased. This is just like the pattern, it never changed. It doesn’t matter what I did, she would tease for no reason.
Tatiana: Lucas was never an aggressive kid. I know sometimes Autistic people can be aggressive, but Lucas was never like that. One day the teacher said he had attacked her. And I know my son. To this day, I don’t know the truth. This was in preschool, he was very young, and the truth never came out. But the next day, even though I knew my son, I bought a flower, and I made Lucas give the flower to her and apologize, and she really didn’t even care. She was still treating him badly. I was told that I had to hire a companion therapist. Back then Brazil didn’t have many laws when it comes to autism and even though the therapist was with him the whole time, the teacher was still treating him differently. She did not let him be promoted to the next year–she made sure to put that in his paperwork. I could understand if she said “Listen, it’s better for him to stay behind a year,” but it was the way she went about it that I didn’t like. It was not a good way to deal with the situation. No sensibility.
Lucas, as we close, would you be interested in reading a favorite quote or passage from his book?
Lucas: Yes, sure.
“Talk about the future brings butterflies in my stomach. Think of something that seems to be so far away, but actually it’s not. Especially when you’re 18 years-old, the anxiety comes. But all you have to do is breath deeply and live each day at a time.”
More From A Real Story Created with Colorful Lines
“Things have always been a little complicated for me. I’ve
always been devoid of abilities when the subject was verbal
communication. Truth, a technical term, so consider this the one
“chat.” I used to feel like there was a tongue twister in my
mouth, or like a dragon hooping out of a lake ready to devour
the words that were in my thoughts before they even came out my
When the words finally came out it felt like a summer breeze,
rain in autumn, a Beethoven song, the coconut tree casting shade
on an island, a popcorn at the cinema! All of that was due to a
well spoken phrase said in front of a group of colleges my age.
Although, when it came out my mouth, it was a bit different and
confused, they even came to asked me if I was Russian!”
“I wanna chase each one of my dreams. Go to arts and history
college supported by my family and inclusion laws. But there’s
something that I don’t want to give up: my identity. I’ve built
a brand and ‘digital impression’ inside of me. I want to expand
my digital impression throughout several places, the hidden ones
and the most known also. When they have contact with my art I
want people to feel the value that their lives have, because all
the work was done thinking on the ones who will see it.”
Ksenhuk, Lucas. A real story created with colourful lines.
Florida,USA, Underline Publishing LLC, 2020.