Stories of Hope: From autistic child to world-renowned artist

How many artists can say they earned their first commission when they were only 8 years old? The only one we know of happens to have autism in addition to an amazing creative talent that is known throughout the world. His name is Stephen Wiltshire, and for all of his accomplishments and sheer determination, we’ve chosen him to be this month’s Story of Hope. Please enjoy!


Communicating through art

Stephen was born in London in 1974. According to his website, he was mute as a child with no language at all, and he lived entirely in his own world. At three, he was diagnosed with autism. He was fortunate to receive early intervention at a school dedicated to children with autism.

His teachers noticed that the only pastime he enjoyed was drawing. He started drawing animals first, then London buses, and finally London’s landmark buildings. In this article, he said, “I started drawing at the age of three, as communication was not an option for me at the time. It was my form of language.”

It was his love of drawing that also led him to talk. Teachers encouraged him to use words when asking for the art supplies he wanted. His first words were pencil and paper! He was fully talking by the age of 9.


Recognizing an artistic savant

One teacher in particular understood Stephen’s talent and encouraged him by taking him on drawing excursions around the city and entering his work in children’s art competitions. After winning many awards, local press outlets became suspicious of how such a young child could produce the masterful drawings he was creating.

Despite the doubts, Stephen quickly proved himself to be an artistic savant with photographic memory, selling his first work at the age of 7 and shortly after being commissioned by his country’s prime minister to create a drawing of the Salisbury Cathedral. The nation’s eyes were on him. And it wasn’t long before the world knew about his incredible talent for drawing buildings and architectural landscapes in great detail after only seeing them for a few minutes.


Drawing the world

At 13, he published his first book of sketches, bringing him more and more international attention. He later took his first trip aboard among many, arriving in New York City to draw its legendary skyscrapers, like the Empire State Building and the Chrysler Building. Those drawings as well as others were featured in his second book.

He later would travel to other destinations on a drawing tour that included Venice, Amsterdam, and even Moscow, attracting crowds wherever he stopped. In Singapore, as an example, he had 150,000 visitors to his gallery and live performance space in just five days!

He went on to publish two more books, and his works were also being exhibited in venues around the world. Stephen took on his largest project in 2005, when he went to Tokyo to make a panoramic drawing – the largest of his career – of the city. Two months later, in similar fashion, he drew a detailed picture of Rome, including the Vatican and St. Peter’s Cathedral, entirely from memory.

In 2019, the newly redesigned 80th floor observatory of the Empire State Building officially reopened with a reproduction of Stephen’s panorama drawing of the city he created in 2017 wrapping the walls with his vision. The $165 million redevelopment also includes a new 10,000 square feet museum space where visitors can purchase reproductions of his work.


“Do the best you can and never stop.”

Stephen’s motto is great advice for all of us. He says the best thing about his success is all the people he gets to meet. “It makes me feel good and happy because it (his work) makes people smile. When they smile, I smile.” Those are amazing words from a man with autism who at one time didn’t relate to anyone.

For his contributions to the art world, Queen Elizabeth II named Stephen as a Member of the Order of the British Empire, a British order of chivalry, rewarding contributions to the arts and sciences, work with charitable and welfare organizations, and public service outside the civil service.

To give your child with autism the very best opportunity for a happy and meaningful life where they can reach their full potential like Stephen, contact The Behavior Exchange. Our autism and ABA therapy experts can help bring out the best in your child!





Ashvina attended University of Bombay and graduated with a Bachelors of Commerce. She got her Montessori Diploma in 1985 and taught ever since. Ashvina came to TBE in January of 2016 as Admin Assistant. During the years she got the opportunity to learn and work in different departments such as HR, Finance, Office Manager and Executive Assistant. Last summer TBE bought billing in house and her current focus area is Revenue Cycle Management. She is detail oriented and enjoys working with people. Ashvina volunteers to deliver meals to seniors and local shelters on the weekend. She loves to spend time with her family and grandkids. Ashvina loves her job because she enjoys hearing different points of view, and she feels her contributions help fuel the direction of our company.

Working with children comes naturally to Angela. Her mom was a special education teacher for 30 years and often had Angela join her for Take Your Child to Work Day. And in high school, Angela spent every summer as the nanny for a little boy with an autism spectrum disorder. It was this experience where her passion for working with children with autism started to blossom.

From there, she went on to graduate from Oklahoma State University with a Bachelor of Science in Human Development and Family Sciences. She learned about Applied Behavior Analysis (ABA) in a non-normative development class and from that moment knew that ABA would be her life’s work.

Angela moved to the DFW area shortly after and began working at The Behavior Exchange as a therapist. She worked on her Master’s in Behavior Analysis at the same time. A year after graduating, she earned certification as a Board Certified Behavior Analyst.

Now, as a Clinical Director at The Behavior Exchange, she brings a life-long passion to her work, holding a special place in her heart for children with limited language skills and working closely with families to develop healthy sleep habits.

Danielle’s passion for working with families is deeply personal and from the heart. Her younger brother has an autism spectrum disorder, and through their journey as a family, she found her purpose in life as an advocate for individuals with special needs.

After graduating from the University of North Texas with a degree in Human Development and Family Studies, Danielle began volunteering at The Behavior Exchange. She saw passionate therapists, meaningful change for clients, and families with hope for the future. After a summer of volunteering, she officially joined the team as Director of Admissions and found her home with The Behavior Exchange family.

With her extensive experience working as a client advocate with insurance providers, Danielle perseveres to help individuals of all ages and abilities receive the services they need to reach their full potential. She feels truly honored by each and every family who entrusts The Behavior Exchange to be part of their journey and is committed to the organization’s core values, mission, and goal of being a beacon of hope for the community.

Adam has always had a passion for helping individuals of all ages thrive and reach their full potential. He’s also an enthusiastic musician, songwriter, leader, and devoted family man, who has been helping children and team members grow with The Behavior Exchange since 2010.

Prior to joining the team at The Behavior Exchange, Adam was a mortgage loan consultant and grad student, pursuing his master’s degree in Education at the University of North Texas. He graduated in 2013 and also earned a graduate academic certificate in Autism Intervention. The following year, after years as a Behavior Therapist and seeing first-hand the power of ABA and the meaningful impact it can have on children and their families, Adam became a Board Certified Behavior Analyst. He then commenced from the Stagen Leadership Academy after completing the Integral Leadership Program (ILP), a 52-week practice-based program designed to develop executives serious about transforming themselves, their teams, and their organizations.

Adam is truly grateful to be a part of a dynamic, inspiring and compassionate team, and he’s dedicated to bettering the lives of all children and their families through the delivery of the highest quality of ABA services, while supporting the amazing team at The Behavior Exchange.

Soraya is from South Africa and moved to Texas in 1996. She graduated from The University of Texas and pursued a career, at that time, in Education. Soraya taught at a Montessori school for a few years and then took on a leadership role.

During her time in the education system, Soraya realized her passion was to assist children with special needs. So she joined The Behavior Exchange as a therapist, transitioned into a supervisory role in 2017, and a year and a half later, was promoted to Clinical Operations Manager.

She quickly learned the ins and outs of ABA operations and scheduling and successfully collaborates across departments to ensure The Behavior Exchange continues to provide quality services to clients and their families. She’s thankful to be part of such an amazing organization and excited to see what the future holds.

You could say Walter’s career started when he spent hours as a young child drawing superheroes and coloring maps. This passion, along with extraordinary swimming skills, landed him a full swimming scholarship at Texas Christian University, where he graduated in 1997 with a Bachelor of Fine Arts in Communication Graphics.

During the next 13 years, his design and art direction skills, conceptual-thinking abilities, and marketing-savvy know-how were honed at a few prestigious advertising and marketing agencies around the Dallas area. In the mid 2000s, he helped his wife Tammy Cline-Soza (founder and CEO of The Behavior Exchange) create a unique and concise brand for her new business. From logos and websites to uniforms, brand voice and visuals, Walter has been the main creative force for all things The Behavior Exchange.

Aside from giving birth to The Behavior Exchange brand, Walter is helping Tammy raise two amazing, beautiful children, River and Sierra. In his spare time (the two minutes he’s got per week), you can find Walter illustrating iconic landmarks of Dallas and Texas or looking around for this next open-water swim. Once he gets back in shape.

After 20 years of building The Behavior Exchange, literally from the ground up,
Tammy couldn’t be more proud of the team, culture, and organization that it has become.

As a family helping families, The Behavior Exchanges looks for opportunities that will make the biggest impact and produce life-changing outcomes – for clients, families, and even for team members. Tammy believes that if a team, a family, a community takes care of each other, the possibilities are endless and the relationships built along the way can make life more enriching and challenges easier to navigate. You could say her goal has been to build a kind of utopia full of support, love, and expertise that brings the best services possible to the community and ensures more families have access to those services.

Tammy and her family have dedicated their lives to the mission of The Behavior Exchange and continue to grow, learn, cultivate, challenge, support, and create better models for success. To that end, she is committed to her own leadership development and actively participates in advanced training, mentoring, and deep self-exploration on how to live out her purpose to love and support her family and help others reach their full potential. She takes her position very seriously and tries to serve as a channel for what the universe wants to come to fruition.

She also loves travel, gardening, being creative, MUSIC!, tennis, yoga, meditation, journaling, reading, being in nature, adventures, and more than anything, spending time with her husband Walter and their two beautiful children, River and Sierra.