Friday, April 28, 2017

Midland County, MI Student Gains Recognition For SpongeBob Artwork

Jefferson Middle School sixth-grader Ben Stebleton's uncanny ability to draw characters from Nickelodeon's hit original animated series SpongeBob SquarePants has gotten him recognition from the cast of the long-running cable series!


Sixth-grader Benjamin Stebleton, 12, works on his Spongebob-inspired recycling center as paraeducator Mary Priest, left, and art teacher Allison Brady, center, discuss more art supplies for Stebleton's project during art class on Tuesday at Jefferson Middle School. Stebleton is autistic, and he loves Spongebob, drawing and typing. Stebleton drew a picture of Gary the Snail from Spongebob, sent it to Nickelodeon, and the show's cast sent him back an autographed pictured. The picture is his inspiration for the recycling center. Photo: Erin Kirkland/Midland Daily News

When art teacher Allison Brady saw Ben's depiction of Gary the Snail, she contacted Nickelodeon Animation in Burbank, California and sent them pictures of Ben's rendering of Gary.

They were so impressed that they sent back a picture of SpongeBob characters signed by the actors who provide voices for the denizens of Bikini Bottom!


Sixth-grader Benjamin Stebleton, 12, drew a picture of Gary the Snail from Spongebob, sent it to Nickelodeon, and the show's cast sent him back an autographed pictured. Photo: Erin Kirkland/Midland Daily News

"They sent him this autographed photo," paraprofessional Mary Priest, who works with Ben each day, told the Midland Daily News as she pointed to an image of the photo on her phone. She and Ben took some time Wednesday to describe his art and other projects.

Ben, who has autism, has artistic talents that go beyond drawing. He created a large model of the "recycling center" sometimes seen in SpongeBob episodes and books.

"It’s all out of recycled material," Priest said.

Sixth-grader Benjamin Stebleton, 12, draws additions to his Spongebob-inspired recycling center during art class on Tuesday at Jefferson Middle School. Stebleton is autistic, and he loves Spongebob, drawing and typing. Stebleton drew a picture of Gary the Snail from Spongebob, sent it to Nickelodeon, and the show's cast sent him back an autographed pictured. The picture is his inspiration for the recycling center. Photo: Erin Kirkland/Midland Daily News

Ben is planning more projects including creating models of the Krusty Krab restaurant (where SpongeBob works) and of a submarine used on a few occasions by SpongeBob and his pal Patrick Star.

"Every day he hands me a list with all the items needed and how he’ll put it together," Priest said.


Sixth-grader Benjamin Stebleton, 12, draws additions to his Spongebob-inspired recycling center during art class on Tuesday at Jefferson Middle School. Stebleton is autistic, and he loves Spongebob, drawing and typing. Stebleton drew a picture of Gary the Snail from Spongebob, sent it to Nickelodeon, and the show's cast sent him back an autographed pictured. The picture is his inspiration for the recycling center. Photo: Erin Kirkland/Midland Daily News

His fascination with SpongeBob extends to having memorized the credits at the end of each SpongeBob SquarePants movie, she added.

Ben is one of six students in Ed Bailey's special education class at Jefferson.

Liz Shuster, an autism spectrum disorder (ASD) specialist, teaches a class of eight students at Jefferson.

As Autism Awareness Month nears its end, Shuster said it’s important to recognize the talents these students have and to encourage their progress.

"We reinforce their use of appropriate behavior," she said. "We want to reinforce the skills we want them to have."

Sixth-grader Benjamin Stebleton, 12, drew a picture of Gary the Snail from Spongebob, sent it to Nickelodeon, and the show's cast sent him back an autographed pictured. Photo: Erin Kirkland/Midland Daily News

Ben, described by Priest as "a whiz on the computer," also produces a weekly newsletter profiling one of his classmates.

He comes up with the questions for each issue of "Splat," and interviews his subjects face to face, asking them questions like "How old are you?," "What grade are you in?," "How many people are in your family?" and "What is your favorite class?"

Priest also noted he was a quick study learning the computer keyboard, and now types 59 words per minute at 99 percent accuracy.

While he has proved to be a very proficient typist, Ben affirmed that his favorite class is art.

Artwork by Ben and other students goes on display Friday at Midland Mall, where there will be a reception Friday afternoon. The works will be on display until Saturday 6th May 2017, Priest said.

MCESA operates autism programs across the county

The Midland County Educational Service Agency operates seven autism spectrum disorder (ASD) programs in school districts across Midland County, Michigan, with a total of about 50 students in the programs, said MCESA Supervisor of Special Education Christi Owens.

"These students have educational needs beyond which their local school district can provide and so they are programmed for by MCESA," Owens said.
There are four elementary-level programs, two middle school programs and one high school program, she said.

The evidence-based, team-based model used in the programs means that each classroom has an assigned speech-language therapist, occupational therapist, physical therapist, psychologist and social worker.

MCESA also provides services for children, birth through early childhood and through post-secondary age for students on the autism spectrum, Owens said. A total of about 200 children across the county receive special education support and services under ASD eligibility in Midland County.

Check out Ben's Sponge-Tastic picture of Gary, and the aweslime SpongeBob photo Nick Animation sent him, above!

More Nick: SpongeBob SquarePants Makes Surprise visit to County Durham school | Jeans for Genes Day | Nickelodeon UK!

Additional sources: Google.co.uk, Wikipedia.
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