Terrell Boyd is as talented as he is humble. The 14-year-old Shiloh middle school student smiles shyly, shrugging off exclamations and praise when people comment on his artwork.
Terrell has autism, and he exhibits many of the signs that have become associated with the condition. Sitting at a picnic table at Briscoe Park in Snellville, he entertains himself while his parents proudly show off some of his drawings.
“We are still without power after Hurricane Irma,” said Shereen. While Gwinnett County schools reconvened on Thursday, Sept. 14, the Boyd children did not return. Surprisingly, Terrell wasn’t happy about that; he loves school.
“Look at this,” said Terrell’s dad, Willie Boyd. Thumbing through a large sketchbook, Willie shares some of his son’s drawings. “I mean, he’s got skills!” Willie and his wife Shereen adopted Terrell when he was a toddler (they fostered him since he was six months old), but the diagnosis of Autism didn’t come until a few years later. No matter; Terrell is the apple of both his parents’ eyes.
“I love all of my children,” Shereen said, “But this guy and I have bonded so strongly. It was hard at first, and sometimes it was embarrassing when we were out in public. People didn’t understand. They thought he was bad, but he’s autistic.” The Boyds fostered many children while living in New York. Willie has biological children, and he and Shereen have Terrell and Skyler, both adopted. They also care for their 10-year-old granddaughter, Aaliyah. Even with such a large family, there seems to be plenty of love and attention to go around.
Willie is quick to give the credit for Terrell’s calm and pleasant demeanor to prayer. Hailing from the Bronx in New York (the Boyds have only lived in Georgia for a little more than a year), Willie enlisted his pastor and fellow church-goers there to pray for the health and well-being of his son. “To God be all the glory. I want to make that very clear,” said Willie.
The Boyds first noticed Terrell’s ability to draw when he began doing so on his Wii® Entertainment System. Holding the controller in one and the “paintbrush” in the other, Terrell started re-creating the cartoon figures he saw on television. When a friend of the family saw the drawings, he told Willie that he needed to get his son a sketchpad. From that day forward, Terrell has a sketchpad or clipboard and paper with him pretty much wherever he goes.
“We were sitting in 12Stone (church – Snellville campus) one Sunday, and Mr. Ernie Johnson was there talking about his special needs son. In one part of his message, he sounded very sad. Terrell wasn’t watching him; he was drawing. But when I looked down, I saw that he was drawing a man with a sad face, and I got it. He may not look like he’s paying attention, but he hears you,” Shereen said.
Terrell’s talent is so striking that his dad, desiring to share that talent, started having t-shirts printed with his son’s drawings on them. “People see them, and they ask, ‘Where can I get one of those?’” Willie said. “When I tell them that my son drew the designs, they want to buy one.” Teachers, friends and even complete strangers have bought t-shirts with Terrell’s drawings on them.
“I tell my son that one day, he will do great things with his art. I have no doubt about that,” said Shereen. Currently, Terrell’s t-shirts are available for sale on e-Bay. His parents hope to create a website soon, to showcase and sell Terrell’s one-of-a-kind creations. “If we do begin to sell these shirts, the proceeds will go to Autism research, and of course to the church,” said Willie.