Through the Eyes of Love

Mar 17, 2009
*Special to asia!

A mother’s love and foresight bears artistic fruit in her autistic son.

Even though Ping Lian’s works were making waves on the local Malaysian art scene then, he was destined for more. Through Dr Treffert, Sarah was introduced to Dr Laurence A. Becker and Dr Rosa C. Martinez. Dr Becker has worked with autistic savant artists for over 30 years and Dr Martinez has been involved in the field of autism as a researcher and educator for 25 years. Together, they introduced Ping Lian’s art to the US in January 2006 through an exhibition in New York City.

Since then, Ping Lian has held art exhibitions all over the US (New Hope, Princeton, San Diego, Austin and Fond du Lac) and in Australia (Sydney and Brisbane), and the UK (Cambridge).

Ping Lian is now included in the select group of “prodigious” savants. Prodigious savants are those individuals whose abilities would be considered phenomenal or “genius” if seen in a person without any limitations or special diagnosis of impairment. Dr Treffert said that there are fewer than 100 prodigious savants in the world today.

Sarah is especially proud of Ping Lian’s exhibition at the Fond du Lac Windhover Centre for the Arts held in September 2007. Entitled “Windows of Genius: Artwork of the Prodigious Savant”, the exhibition gathered the works of a dozen savant artists aged between 14 and 70.

“Ping Lian painted on the opening night and attracted lots of attention,” she said.

Today, Ping Lian is recognised worldwide as a gifted artist. His signature style of bold strokes and cheerful colours has won over many art enthusiasts and collectors around the globe

Ping Lian, who now resides in Sydney, Australia, recently returned to his hometown in Malaysia for an exhibition entitled “My Journey…Artworks of the Prodigious Savant-Autistic Yeak Ping Lian” at The Art Commune @ Suria Stonor.

Although much of Ping Lian’s success as an artist can be attributed to the untiring work of his mother, Sarah was quick to add: “What Ping Lian has achieved thus far would not have been possible without the support, advice and encouragement of many special individuals and organisations. They have contributed to change Ping Lian’s life and also have indirectly set a course for changes in our family life.”

She said that the memory of Ping Lian's father and his grandmother also serves as strength for the family. Ping Lian’s father passed away in 2004 from a heart attack. “I believe they both smile upon us from heaven as they witness the progress Ping Lian is making and the positive changes in our lives,” Sarah said.

But most of all, Sarah has great love and admiration for her special son. “Now he is an artist full of love and affection. He is obedient, loving, caring and a grateful boy with a special gift and talent in drawing, painting and colours. Ping Lian’s gift is a gift from God,” Sarah says.

And although Ping Lian still has limited communication and social skills, Dr Treffert believes his savant ability will bode him well. He said, “The savant abilities such as artistic talent, when exercised and used, can serve as a conduit toward normalisation with increased language, social and daily living skills.  I anticipate that is what will happen with Ping Lian over time as 'training the talent' helps minimise some of his behavioural and language deficits.”


For more information about Ping Lian, please visit


Sarah is also in the process of writing a book about Ping Lian, his art works and her dreams. The book is scheduled to be released in 2009 or 2010.

Ruth Wong traded her job as a journalist for the hectic schedule of school runs nearly a decade ago. Since then, she has had the priviledge of teaching and learning from special kids, especially those with autism. Ruth recently relocated from Malaysia to Singapore and is discovering the joys of connecting with troubled teens.