Since this photo of Jennifer Poore and her son Marston was taken a couple of years ago, Marston has taken up artwork – and his mother, a literacy buff who used to teach elementary school students, has begun writing a curriculum for parents and special education teachers. Courtesy Photo/Courtenay Goff

KENNEBUNKPORT – Jennifer Poore has no trouble remembering when her son Marston became interested in creating art.

It was just before March, a year ago, just before the coronavirus pandemic changed how we all go about our daily lives.

Marston, now 17, was working at home with his direct support professionals, and one of them started doing some artwork with him.

“He loved it,” said Poore. And now neither Marston or his mother, who also has creative pursuits, writing books for young people with special needs that are suitable for teens, have looked back.

Marston, the son of Jennifer and Nathan Poore, has profound autism, diagnosed when he was a small child. He is a junior at Kennebunk High School. The couple has a daughter, Hope, a sophomore.

Since the pandemic began, Marston Poore, 17, who has autism, has been creating artwork every day and some of his work is now available in postcard form. Courtesy Photo

As schools closed early on in the pandemic, young people reverted to remote learning and then of course, came the summer. Art became even more appealing to the 17-year-old.

Marston continued working, using cray-pas, markers and crayons to create designs on paper. Then, he placed paper shapes his mother had made, arranging them in a variety of patterns, using Elmer’s glue and paintbrushes, and then added more color over the shapes.

The result is an eclectic body of work in bright colors that portrays motion and emotion.

“It is a very sensory activity,” said Poore in a recent interview. “It’s interesting to watch him work, he really enjoys the sensory aspects. And it is interesting to watch him place the shapes, sometimes he stacks them, using the bigger shapes first.”

Marston Poore, 17, works on a piece of art in his Kennebunkport home. Courtesy Photo

Earlier in the year, Poore bought canvasses and made Valentine shapes, and Marston went to work. And he keeps at it.

“I just knew it made him happy, and a preferred activity like this is rare,” she said. “He does art every day.”

As the number of pieces of art increased, Poore had an idea – so she snapped photos of the finished pieces, and had them printed as postcards – just in time for Christmas. The Pandemic Collection, and another, valentine collection called Love Notes from Marston, are available on her website, bringthesalad.com., along with the books she’s authored, which are also inspired by Marston.

Poore, who has a master’s degree in literacy, taught first grade in Old Orchard Beach for a decade, and later worked at a Kennebunk school for six years. In the fall of 2019, she decided to step back, and began thinking about writing books that would help older teens with autism or other special needs boost their reading ability.

What she had observed is that there are very few books available in what she describes as the early fluent reading level that Marston is in, that would appeal to a teen.

“The basic books are too juvenile for a 17-year-old, and had trouble finding books that were age appropriate, so I thought ‘what about if I tried to write some books and keep a controlled vocabulary level and use photos,'” said Jennifer, noting those with special needs learn best with real photos. So far, The Marston Book Series includes “Lets Bowl,” “Maine Life,” and “The Lake.”

Poore described the books on her website:

Among the designs Marston Poore has created is this Valentine’s Day postcard. Courtesy Photo

“In each non-fiction chapter book your child will see someone like them (Marston) exploring the world,” she wrote. ” The text is controlled at an early fluent level, so your child can feel successful. Color photographs are used on every page, and the diverse content throughout each book will spark a variety of interests.”

Then, said Poore, someone suggested it would be nice if the books were accompanied with a activity, so, she has “dabbled” in writing workbooks that elaborate on concept in the book series. Her plan, she said, is to produce eight books and eight workbooks, with a goal of producing a curriculum special education teachers and parents could use.

So far, there are three books and two workbooks and a third is in progress.

“As kids with special needs get older, the focus becomes life skills, as it should,” said Jennifer. “But my hope is that these books will not only help older students learn more in terms of literacy skills but also spark new interests for them. I try to integrate a lot of disciplines into each book and workbook, whether it’s history, science, geography, math, art, music, (or) writing and spelling.”

For more about the books, Marston’s art, and free resources like games, and Poore’s blog, visit bringthesalad.com.

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