LAWRENCEVILLE — Graphic designer Amy Gay took one look at the chubby blue elephant, painstakingly drawn by her 5-year-old nephew with autism, and saw greeting card potential.
Tristan Bramblett spends hours drawing his favorite cast of characters. He can do a pink flamingo, a yellow lion and an orange crab, all with huge smiles.
And now, they’re featured on a line of stationery, gift wrap and clothing marketed under the name Blue Elephant Creations. The line, started three months ago by Tristan’s aunt, his mom, Cyndi Bramblett, and his grandmother, Ellen Mcilwain, is sold online for now. But the entrepreneurs have high hopes — they’re courting local boutiques to carry the products and even looking for a celebrity sponsor.
“We’ve talked to Faith Hill,” Bramblett said.
But they’re not just out to earn a quick buck. The Lawrenceville women plan to use half their proceeds to start up a foundation to help autistic children get access to the latest in therapy treatments. The idea is to make behavioral therapy, a program that’s helped Tristan learn to interact with other people, a viable option for parents who don’t think they can afford it, Bramblett said.
Tristan was almost 2 years old when he was diagnosed with severe autism. Doctors told the Brambletts their son, who would cry most of the day, bang his head on tables and bite his hands til they bled, would probably need to be institutionalized.
Bramblett started researching autism and stumbled upon a few programs offering Applied Behavioral Analysis, an expensive treatment program that had shown positive results.
The therapy wasn’t offered in Winder, where the Brambletts lived, so the family moved to Greenville, S.C., then to Winston-Salem, N.C., chasing down funding for ABA. Paying for the treatment program hasn’t been easy on the family, who resorted to selling furniture and renting out their house in Georgia to help pay.
Tristan spends about 50 hours a week working one-on-one with tutors, who teach him to do everyday tasks like pulling on a shirt by rewarding him every step of the way. Bramblett said she’s seen remarkable changes.
“He used to be in his own world. Now, he’s talking in sentences; he goes to a typical preschool,” Bramblett said. “To hear my son, who couldn’t talk before, say, ‘I love you, mom’ — it just melts my heart.”