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Student with additional learning needs wins Welsh art competition

Lesley Art Student

A CARDIFF student with additional learning needs has won a prestigious art competition and his piece has been chosen as a cover for the 2012 Disability Arts Cymru Christmas card.

Leslie Saunders, aged 21, entered his ‘robin’ piece into the Disability Arts Cymru ‘Go Get Started’ competition, building on his love for painting and craftwork.

The College Ystrad Mynach student was born with a rare condition called Costello Syndrome, meaning that he struggles with speech and the ability to walk long distances.

Leslie, who studies Learning for Life and Leisure – a course focussing on improving basic skills, and promoting self-confidence - worked on the piece tirelessly for a period of months and is extremely proud of his artwork.

As Leslie has severe mobility and communication problems, he mainly uses ‘Signalong’ – a type of sign language - to communicate, and his teachers have consistently praised his enthusiasm and effort.

The budding artist moved into his own flat, with support, earlier this year and hosts some more of his artwork on display for his guests.

Disability Arts Cymru is committed to working with individuals and organisations to celebrate the diversity of disabled and deaf people’s art and culture, and is revenue funded by the Arts Council of Wales.

The competition winner, Leslie, said:

“I’m very happy to have won this award and I’m looking forward to many people receiving the Christmas card, and seeing my artwork.

“I’ve always been interested in art, having started making pictures when I was much younger. Now I’ve moved on to ceramics, painting pictures and making pots. I’ve been awarded lots of certificates for my work as well.

Maggie Hampton, Director of Disability Arts Cymru added:

“Leslie’s piece was brilliant and original, and won the competition amidst fierce competition from over 300 high-quality entries.

“The high standard of entries demonstrates the exciting and valuable contribution made to the arts in Wales by disabled and deaf people and underlines the talent that is on offer.”

His tutor at The College Ystrad Mynach, Gary Humphries, said:

“Leslie has been with us three years now and is an absolute inspiration to others around him. He is a pleasure to have in class, has a great sense of humour and he brings the best out of everybody.

“He’s extremely cheerful and he copes brilliantly with the hand he has been dealt with. His artwork is fantastic and nobody deserves this award more than him.”

Bryn Davies, Principal of The College Ystrad Mynach, said:

“We’re delighted that Leslie has won such a great award, contributing to a great cause, and he deserves it for all the effort and commitment he puts in at college every day.

“The award is also a tribute to his teachers, who work tirelessly to ensure that every student receives the best possible teaching and support.”

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