Views and Comments by Dr Rosa C. Martinez

By Rosa C. Martinez, Ph.D., BCBA
PING LIAN YEAK: “Don’t ‘dis’ the ability
     [January 2006]
In 2005 I was introduced to the extraordinary art work of Ping Lian Yeak by Dr. Laurence Becker. Ping Lian is a 12 year old boy from Malaysia with autism. I have worked in the field of autism as a researcher and an educator for approximately 25 years. The art work of autistic savants has always intrigued me. I have studied and followed the work of Nadia (Ukraine) who began drawing at the age of 3, Stephen Wiltshire (London) who began drawing at the age of 5 and Jonathan Lerman (New York) who began drawing at the age of 10.

All of these artists share the autistic spectrum disorder characteristic of an impoverished linguistic ability. Approximately 10% of autistic children have savant ability. Certain savant children whose verbal behavior skills are extremely limited can draw objects and even panoramic views from memory. Such drawings often reveal a preciseness of features and eye for detail that is not exhibited when contrasted with the drawing capabilities of typically developing children in the same age group.

Ping Lian has always shown an interest in tracing. In order to teach Ping Lian to develop writing skills, his mother (Sarah Lee) focused on tracing with the hopes of improving his fine motor skills. However, by mid 2002, Ping Lian began drawing exquisite works. In March 2003, Sarah wrote in her personal diary “I know he will be an artist one day.”

Ping Lian Yeak began drawing at the age of 8.  His work is prodigious and unprecedented regarding the vast array of portrayals from dogs, roosters, horses, fish, flowers and people; to architectural structures in both black and white extremely detailed drawings and colorful intricate landscapes.

I was so fascinated with the work of Ping Lian, that through my contact with Dr. Becker we jointly decided to host an International Art Exhibition Tour to feature his work. The tour entitled “Autistic Savant Artworks: Don’t ‘dis’ the ability” begins in New York City January 2006. Ping Lian and his family will be coming to the United States from Malaysia for his Exhibition Opening! Details are available at the following websites:

The National Alliance for Autism Research (NAAR)
Autism Speaks
Autism Society of America

The Wisconsin Medical Societ

Wisconsin Medical Society - Savant Profile, Richard Wawro
Dr. Darold Treffert

I would like to acknowledge Ping Lian’s mother Sarah Lee for allowing me the opportunity to study Ping Lian’s work and for her overall strength, dedication and encouragement in creating awareness in the general population not to “dis’ the ability of individuals. In the year of 2004 Sarah Lee raised and donated more than RM $119,000 to various special needs populations from the sales of Ping Lian’s art works.


About Dr. Martinez…
Dr. Martinez has a B.S. in Special Education from CCNY, a Masters degree in Adolescent Autism, a Masters of Philosophy, and a Doctorate in Behavioral Disorders from Columbia University. Dr. Martinez is also a Board Certified Behavior Analyst. She has taught Education courses at the College of Staten Island, Long Island University and Touro College. She is presently the Educational Director for The Children’s Center for Early Learning and Early Intervention. She has lectured and presented at various conferences regarding Autism and Applied Behavior Analysis, and has authored an early intervention curriculum for children on the autism spectrum. For further information about autism, applied behavior analysis, or Ping Lian’s Art in NYC contact