Purse Designed by Student With Autism Becomes International Sensation

Dinosaur Purse1 copyEven if you don’t care about the world of fashion or keep a scorecard on the various diplomats who visit the White House, chances are you’ll still be interested in this story. This past week, when the Prime Minister of Singapore visited President Obama, his wife Lee Ho Ching was photographed carrying a simple and fun dinosaur clutch bag designed not by a famous designer, but by a 20-year-old man with autism.

It turns out that Mrs. Lee is an advisor to the Pathlight School, the first autism-focused school in Singapore. The school has an Artist Development Programme (ADP) and the items designed by ADP students are featured at its Art Faculty, to “promote the special talents of people with autism and related challenges.” Mrs. Lee brought three purses designed by ADP students to the U.S. for her visit, deciding at the last minute to use the blue dinosaur bag designed by Sheng Jie.

While Sheng Jie’s parents were amazed that their son’s design made it into the international spotlight, his father said that his son doesn’t realize the impact that his design made. He explained: “He is just happy when we tell him someone likes what he’s made.”

Sheng Jie makes dinosaur designs right from his head, without relying on any pictures or photos. His parents said he became obsessed with dinosaurs after watching the Disney movie “Dinosaur” when he was just 3 years old. It was the first movie he’d ever sat still for, and he was soon sculpting clay dinosaurs. He went on to create his own dinosaur encyclopedia, featuring his artwork as well as descriptions of each dinosaur. Although Sheng Jie doesn’t talk much, he loves to name all of the dinosaurs from A to Z.

Dinosaur Purse2 copy

In 2011, after teachers noticed his artistic abilities, Sheng Jie became one of the first students in Pathlight’s Artist Development Programme. Professional artists work with the ADP students to help them develop their talent. When possible, the work of the students is turned into merchandise to benefit both the program and the students, who earn royalties on every sale. Sheng Jie’s dinosaur drawings are featured on pouches such as the one that Mrs. Lee carried, as well as notebooks and notecards. The specific pouch showcased by Mrs. Lee sold out within 24 hours.

Linda Kho, Pathlight’s principal, told the BBC, “We were pleasantly surprised and honoured that she chose to bring this bag on her official visit. It gave such a great mileage for the artist on our Artist Development Programme (ADP).”

Mrs. Lee also gifted Mrs. Obama a set of mugs and cups featuring the artwork of another ADP student. We know it’s unlikely, but we think it would be great if they became a permanent White House installation!

Rachel L. MacAulay

Founder at Challa & Haggis
Still learning that there’s no such thing as perfection in parenting, or in life, though I don’t stop trying. Avid reader; lapsed wanderer; reformed cynic. I believe every day should be filled with children’s laughter.

Related Posts

Woodstock Chimes Autism Story Garry Kvistad, founder and owner of Woodstock Chimes, has won a GRAMMY® Award, played music with The Temptations and started an international company ...
2017 NFL Pro Bowl to Be Autism-Friendly This Sunday, the NFL’s Pro Bowl will take place in Orlando, Florida. As the location of Disney World, Universal Studios, SeaWorld, and more, Orlando i...
This Company Went Above and Beyond to Help an Auti... Marc Carter's 14 year-old son, Ben, has severe autism. Ever since he was two, Ben has insisted on drinking out of the same sippy cup. He simply wo...
Gatwick Becomes First ‘Autism-Friendly’... Last week, without too much fanfare, Gatwick Airport became the U.K.’s first designated “Autism Friendly” airport. The National Autistic Society is re...
This UPS Man Makes Very Special Deliveries Do you know that giddy feeling that you get when the UPS man drops a package off at your door? Even if you know exactly what’s in it, it can still fee...
Myrtle Beach Airport Opens Sensory-Friendly ‘... Back in the beginning of 2016, the town of Surfside Beach, South Carolina, made news when it became the first “autism-friendly” travel destination in ...
Apple Store Field Trips: Apples, Smiles, and Super... As an Apple Distinguished Educator and the head of Instructional Technology at Wildwood School in New York State—a comprehensive educational progr...
She Has Non-Verbal Autism, But Her New Friend Unde... If you have a non-verbal child, chances are you know how hard it is for them to make friends. That's why we know you'll love this video. The mother...
To All of the Amazing Dads To show our appreciation on Father’s Day, and every day, we present these nine wonderful posts celebrating amazing Autism Dads. ...
12 Year Old Creates Disability App Twelve-year-old Alexander Knoll is a shining example for changing the world at any age. The tween has invented the prototype for Ability App™, an appl...
Regions Bank Rolls Out Autism-Friendly Initiatives Regions Bank, which serves 15 mostly Southern states in the U.S., has joined the growing number of businesses offering autism-friendly services and pr...
Moms Who Inspire Mother’s Day is a day to celebrate your Mom. It’s also a day to recognize other Moms. We started this site six years ago, and during that time, we hav...