Visual Memory and His Love of Giverny

Paris Musee D'Orsay Claude Monet 1899 Nympheas Water Lily Basin Green Harmony

For Autism Awareness Month, I wanted to share a story regarding Johnny being a visual learner and his incredible memory.

The other day I saw some pictures on Twitter of Monet’s famous water lily paintings and Johnny was looking over my shoulder and said,

Mommy that’s Giverny.” I asked him, “Who painted those?” and he answered “Monet Mommy.  I didn’t like that bus ride it was too loud and very crowded.  Next time can we just walk there?”

He was right, everyone was complaining about that.  He scrolls down my Twitter feed and he sees a picture of Monet standing in front of his house and gardens.  “That’s Giverny Mommy and I want to go back.  That is Monet’s pink house.   I liked all the flowers and the bridges and the lilies.  I really liked the poppies. They were in all different colors.”

What’s incredible to me and my husband is we visited Giverny, France 9 months ago and we haven’t shown him pictures since the Fall and he remembers so much in great detail.  The other thing is instead of just talking about the paintings in front of him on my phone, he decided to jump to his memories of the real place.

Claude Monet 1921

*photo credit

Claude Monet's House 2014

Before we visited museums in Paris where Monet’s paintings were hung, we decided to take the kids on a day trip to Monet’s House and gardens and see where he did most of his work.  Later when we were in the D’Orsay, in the  impressionists gallery, it was very overwhelming for Johnny.  Luckily, there is a giant balcony that overlooks the Seine and an indoor rest area that has this gigantic octopus leather covered beanbag chairs that Johnny could throw himself into and self regulate.  Then he would push his little sister Princess in a stroller (heavy work) and explore the gallery.  He didn’t know the name of the painter but he did know that he was looking at something familiar.  He would walk along and stop and look up and say “we were there Mommy.  That’s Giverny.”


*photo credit

At the L’Orangerie he kept going into one room then the next and back again to take in canvases that are larger then the length of most classrooms.  I wanted to stay still and let it just wash over me and take each canvas in but he would stare then poof move back to the previous one and back again.  The paintings here are the famous Water Lilies and because they’re so large it’s like you’re actually standing at the edge of the pond in Giverny.


*Photo Credit


What have I learned?  I have to keep reminding myself that Johnny takes in visual information at a speed much faster than I’m used to and from his point of view I’m just too slow.  Meanwhile I’m always saying slow down which frustrates him.  Now nine months later he is showing me exactly how much he took in when we were in Giverny and in the museums.     It’s now showing itself in the way he’s  approaching painting as well what he chooses to paint.
 Giverny Water Lilies June 2014



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