PART OF US: Maddy Fowler hopes portraits of her brother Travis (left) and sister Michaela (right) will encourage people to think of their disabilities as “another facet of who they are”.
PART OF US: Maddy Fowler hopes portraits of her brother Travis (left) and sister Michaela (right) will encourage people to think of their disabilities as “another facet of who they are”. Amber Hooker

Emerald siblings' disabilities inspire sister's artwork

MADDY Fowler's siblings taught her a lot growing up, and she hopes people can start to see them through her eyes.

The 18-year-old Emerald resident has drawn portraits of her brother Travis, 15, who has autism and her sister Michaela, 16, who has Down's syndrome, to encourage people to talk about disability, a subject many consider taboo.

The portraits have been hung on the walls of Semita House, which has helped the Fowler family since Michaela was six weeks old, along with many other families in the region.

"I think they would be a little bit lost just hanging at home," Maddy said.

"A lot of the people I have shown it to really appreciate and connect with the work.

"And I wanted to try and get across 'yes, they are different'. It is a part of them as much as your height, your hair colour, your weight, the way you think about things.

"You can't make their disability entirely who they are - it's just another facet and thing to appreciate.

"It's not a drawback and it's not them entirely, but it is a part of them."

Maddy said her siblings had opened her eyes to preconceptions, with Michaela often being judged based on her appearance.

"They define her with Down syndrome," Maddy said. "She tricks everyone into thinking she is dumb and ditzy.

"She actually learns a lot. She listens to things and she can do things herself."

But Maddy said because her brother's disability had no physical traits, it was harder for people to understand.

"People expect too much of him sometimes, I think," Maddy said.

"They don't have enough patience for him and they don't open their minds to think the way he thinks."

She said misconceptions about her siblings and their disabilities were a huge challenge she hoped her art might help overcome.

Tomorrow, people are encouraged to wear their brightest colours in support of World Autism Day.


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