SIOUX FALLS, S.D. (KELO) — Antonio Humann is a painter and musician who is also interested in acting and the design of formal wear to everyday living clothes.

Humann, 23, is also autistic. He’s one of the estimated 3.7% of all adult males in South Dakota with autism or autism spectrum disorder (ASD), according to the Centers for Disease Control. An estimated 5.4 million persons in the U.S. have ASD. Most of them are men.

April is Autism Awareness Month which the Autism Society of America calls Autism Acceptance Month. The society and autism speaks say the month is a way to create awareness of autism and to lead to advocacy for resources and services for those with autism.

Humann has autism but it’s not what defines him.

“He’s always very happy,” Humann’s mom Laurie Burtis said of her son. “He gets up laughing…, which is awesome.”

“That’s what keeps the body healthy and you healthy and your heart healthy,” Humann said of laughter.

“He uses part of his brain that I will never use. That’s a gift,” Burtis said.

One of Antonio Humann’s paintings. Photo courtesy of Antonio Humann.

Humann’s creative bent was fostered when his grandfather who recently died took him to an art class. He was hooked. COVID helped to spur on his interest.

“I paint every day or at least (I) try to,” Humann said. “It’s about the discipline, open mind and the focus and the willingness to get it done.”

“He gets a lot of joy out of it,” Burtis said of Humann’s painting.

His grandfather’s philosophy has influenced his approach. His grandfather taught him that if he to set his mind on something, to do it.

He thinks about his grandfather at times when painting. When a painting is completed it’s heartwarming to see the results.

Humann’s been painting nearly every day for four months. The mom and son laughed about the number of paintings that are filling their home in Colman. Humann’s birthday is coming up in July. They may display the painting as part of the part of the party.

One of Humann’s earlier paintings. Photo courtesy of Antonio Humann.

The plan is to donate paintings for fundraisers as a way to help others.

Burtis said she planned on filling another wall with her son’s paintings.

Humann works with acrylic paints.

“What I love about acrylics, because, it just gives some kind of realistic detail to make the painting look real itself, as if you were to look at them in the real world. It brightens up the picture so it has more light into the subject and into the detail.”

He pays attention to the details. He’s also taking painting tutorials on YouTube videos.

“I’m making progress,” Humann said of his work.

Details are something that has been important in Humann’s life.

“He has always been a (perfectionist) ever since he was little,” Burtis said. “He would line all his trains up and that had to be right in row. Everything had to be just perfect.”

When Humann was away at school, she’d try and collect toys he’d outgrown so she could donate them to Goodwill. Unfortunately, her son would notice if things were not back in place, as well as noticing the missing toys, she said.

“I tried to put everything back (in the right place). That didn’t work,” Burtis said.

“Yep,” Humann said.

And then they both broke into laughter at the recollection.


In one of the few autism data studies available, the Easter Seals estimated that in South Dakota in 2014-2015, 978 or 5.15% of children with disabilities ages 3-21 who received special education services have autism.

The South Dakota Department of Education defines several characteristics of those on the autism spectrum
disorder as engagement in repetitive activities and stereotyped movements, resistance to environmental change or change in daily routines, and unusual responses to sensory experiences.

“At one point when Antonio was little he had issues with going places where there was a lot of people, you know, like to the grocery store,” Burtis said.

“He’d say ‘all done mom,'” Burtis said of grocery store trips. But she’d have to tell him that there were still some items they needed to get.

When Antonio was a first-grade student in school near Sioux Falls, Burtis said she “got them to start a program for kids in the special class to get them to go out in the public.” Field trips to the mall or Dairy Queen, somewhere in the public, so that the students were learning to feel safe, she said.

“Social interaction is HIGHLY important for students on the autism spectrum,” the state DOE said in a presentation about ASD.

Humann reacted with sadness his mom first talked about grocery trips but then, smiled when she talked about the program.

Antonio Humann

“I did (like) it for the most part,” Humann said of the field trip program at school. Still, there were some hardships, he said.

Burtis became an advocate for her son and other students.

“I was pretty involved with school, to say the least,” Burtis said.

“I’d help them with parties and…,” Burtis said.

“Everyday stuff, to help make it more fun,” Humann said as he finished his mom’s sentence.

Things got better as he got older in school, Burtis said.

Humann graduated from Lincoln High School in Sioux Falls in 2019. After graduation, he attended a community campus that teaches life skills.

“Community campus started to go well at first but it ended up not being so good,” Humann said.

But the two discussed and Burtis said the experience is like other things in life. A job, for example. Someone may start thinking it’s a good fit but then realizes the job is not a good fit, Burtis said.

The future

Burtis said there’s been progress made for persons with ASD over the past 20 years.

“I think there is still a lot of doors that could be opened. I still think people are kind of shy when they are not aware of it. I do think there are a lot of doors that have opened,” Burtis said.

“You’ve just go to get out advocate for them,” Burtis said.

Advocacy includes introducing her son to new people and encouraging him when people may have a friendly response.

“(As I) Get up to my 50s I want to start setting mind to having kids and a nice family. To go with my career. Everything basic family life,” Humann said.

“He’s going to do something with his life, he already has,” Burtis said.

“There’s no limits,” he said. He is self-taught on the keyboard and is interested in fashion as art.

Whatever the path, Humann said it will include painting.

Those interested in Humann’s art can contact him at