Gilles is 34, a savant autistic. At age five, he became a self-taught artist, drawing a three-dimensional fictional city, Urville.
According to his mother, he has a speech delay, echolalia, doesn’t play with other children, sensitive to the sound of balloons, thunder, and circus whips, and crackers. Those sounds were all terrifying to him. He is obsessed with airplanes, mountains, phone numbers, extraordinary buildings. The whole family, including his sister, has been supportive not only of him but the entire autism society. Actually, his mother changed careers from a teacher to a psychiatrist and his father from working for IBM to becoming the head of the Autism Europe. His sister also works with the autism community.
Gilles created the city of Urville, an imaginary megacity in Europe which arose from his childhood. He first created it to provide a setting for the Lego airport he is building with his toy planes until he decided just to draw it to explain it with much clarity.
Catherine is Gilles’ girlfriend, who is also an artist. She was diagnosed with Asperger’s syndrome, a part of a broad variety of autism spectrum disorder, which belongs to the high functioning category of ASD.
Catherine uses more color in her art and a variety of materials, unlike Gilles.
Their Love Story
They met online after Catherine emailed Gilles when she saw the Urville website, telling Gilles that she would like to live there. Soon after their online meeting came Catherine’s diagnosis with Asperger’s. According to her, she felt relieved when she was given this diagnosis, as she used to suffer from chronic fatigue because of not being able to fit herself into the neurotypical world.
The relationship between Cath and Gilles was something that is hard to imagine becoming possible, a lasting and acceptable relationship. They were so affectionate with each other. Catherine and Gilles always looked for each other’s welfare, and they very much admired each other’s talents.
Catherine even commented that Gillies was the best thing that happened to her in one of her interviews. She also added that they complemented each other though they were not the same.
Both of them had respect for each other’s need for being alone and for having a time of silence.
It’s very rare to hear stories about individuals with autism falling in love or being in a relationship. We always think that it’s tough to be with an autistic because of their poor communication and socialization skills.
Even for a person with autism, being in a relationship or just the idea of it seems impossible because they are very much aware of their limitations and their weaknesses. But like any regular teenager or adult, they, too, want to experience how it is to love and be loved, to be touched, and to be kissed. They also want to explore this aspect of their life that they fear so much.
But Catherine and Gilles proved this to be wrong. They made it possible for autistic individuals to fall in love and be in a relationship – a relationship they faced together and accepted and supported by the people who loved them.
They are two autists brought together by their art and bound by love, and theirs is a one of a kind story of love, art, and autism.