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Art Therapy For Autism

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Art Therapy for Autism

Art and other creative activities promote mental and emotional growth among those with autism. The goal of this program is to encourage self-expression and the development of beneficial life skills. By offering artistic projects that encourage individual strengths, clients develop greater self-esteem and experience an outlet that fulfills sensory needs.Upon enrolling in the Arts and Crafts Studio program, the staff at the Adult Autism Center will measure client growth based on their independent engagement in activities. The goal here is to turn arts and crafts into skill-building opportunities that spark new interests and promote greater well-being.

Using Art To Help People With Autism

By Renee Phillips

Autism, or autism spectrum disorder, refers to a range of conditions characterized by challenges with social skills, repetitive behaviors, speech and nonverbal communication, as well as by unique strengths and differences. There are many types of autism, caused by different combinations of genetic and environmental influences, and the symptoms and their severity vary widely. Even though autism is usually a life-long condition, children and adults alike benefit from art-related therapies. They can reduce symptoms and increase skills and abilities. Many individuals and organizations are using art to help people with autism. In this article I highlight three.

Art Vs Talking Therapy

One of the common methods of treating autism is through “talk therapy” under the direction, usually, of a team of workers who use verbal strategies to help the child develop social skills necessary for independent existence. Art therapy takes a different, more environmental and physical approach.

Possibly the primary benefit lies in addressing the difficulties with imagination caused by autism through art therapy. Art is, by nature, a very individual process, and the personal attention of an art therapist can provide a very hands-on and concrete way for the child to think abstractly and be creative. In addition, the creation of art usually lies within the constraints of a sensorally limited environment – crayons and paper,for example, or the simple tactile experience of clay on a wheel. The production of a piece of art within these parameters not only can help the child make progress but also provide, at the end, a tangible artifact of the process of treatment.

In the purely clinical sense, treating autism through art can help both in the developmental growth of a small child with autism as well as improving the visual-spatial discrepancies often present in children.

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How Is Art Therapy Used With Autism

One of the most common goals of art is to increase tolerance to unpleasant stimuli through sensory integration. People with autism may struggle with external stimuli, often leading to meltdowns. Art helps channel self-stimulating behavior into creative play that is enjoyable to all children. So, when a child works with paper, he can get used to the strips of paper and will eventually become desensitized to similar sensations, making them more bearable in daily life.

Some of the benefits of art therapy are:

  • Talking is not necessary to communicate. Instead, the communication is done through creative expression
  • Eye contact is not required or expected, and the basis of therapy is acceptance and non-judgment
  • Improves imagination and abstract thinking, and the art materials encourage great sensory experiences
  • These creative activities allow the child to learn new things in comprehensive ways
  • Enhances the autistic childs ability to build stronger relationships by seeing other peoples perspectives
  • Participation does not depend on cognitive abilities because art therapy has flexibility in the way it does things
  • Enhances emotional and sensory regulation, which impacts a childs behavior.

Art Therapy For Autism

How Does Art Therapy Help People With Autism?
  • Complementary
  • Art Based Therapy
  • In recent years, caregivers are seeking alternative or complementary treatments for autism and have a wide array of options available. One such treatment is arts-based therapy. It is a natural fit for autism. It helps assuage the deficits associated with autism by channeling autistic behaviors into an expressive, creative outlet.

    Arts-based therapy is an umbrella term comprising of various art forms namely, visual art, dance/movement therapy, music therapy, play therapy and drama therapy. Contingent on the interests and preference of the child, any one or more art forms can be employed to reach the desired goal.

    One of the major characteristics of autism spectrum disorders is difficulty with verbal and social communication. However, many individuals with autism have an extraordinary ability to think visually i.e. in pictures. Art, in general, is a form of expression that could open doors of communication for a child with autism. It also promotes self-exploration, emotional growth, and sensory integration while also encouraging social interaction in a fun setting.

    Arts-based therapy differs from traditional art-making or performance in that the emphasis is on the process of creating and making rather than on the end product.

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    How Does The Arts And Crafts Program Benefit Adults With Autism

    The main goal of this program is to provide adults with autism an opportunity to learn leisure arts and crafts skills. We also encourage our clients to create art that they are able to sell at the farmers market, which supports the development of other critical life skills, including but not limited to social skills.

    In that sense, this program allows adults with autism to:

    • Benefit from an alternative to verbal communication. Since one of the core hallmarks of autism is impaired communication, arts and crafts act as a powerful form of non-verbal expression. Many individuals with autism are visual thinkers. Expressing their thoughts and feelings through art and other creative outlets can provide a sense of relief and accomplishment.
      Be able to work on their social skills. In many cases, art therapy allows individuals to develop a bond with their therapist, as they are able to focus on the clients artwork, reducing the stress associated with face-to-face interaction. Within our program, art is a facilitator in forming connections with peers. Group projects also foster greater teamwork and cooperation.

    Art Therapy For Children With Autism: Connecting Through Creativity To Build Resiliency

    A diagnosis of autism brings joys, challenges, and anxieties. You see your childs amazing strengths. You marvel at their unique talents. Your child is incredible! Yet you worry about the areas where they struggle.

    In difficult moments you are your childs advocate, defender, cheerleader, and helper. But you cant always be there. What happens when your child faces a challenge alone?

    At Resourceful Me Art Therapy, I use the creative process to connect with children with autism so that we can work together to build resiliency.

    Through art and play, we practice skills and create tools for your childs tool kit, their metaphorical pocket knife for life, so that they can feel confident and competent when facing challenges.

    Art therapy can be a great fit for children with autism because:

    In my experience, kids with autism often like art therapy! Much of their world is very structured, which is essential for safety and success, but within safe boundaries they can experience a bit more freedom during art therapy. They often respond positively to the one-on-one support of the therapist who pays special attention to their emotional experience. They are offered some choice in how or what we do if appropriate, which means that they often have fun during sessions.

    According to recent studies , art therapy can help children with autism to:


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    Art Therapy Is Very Different From Doing Arts And Crafts

    Kelly once told me the story of applying for a job at a school for autism and being told, No, thanks, we already have an art teacher. This was disheartening most people dont know that art therapy is NOT the same as art education. The American Art Therapy Association describes art therapy as a mental health profession that uses the creative process of art making to improve and enhance the physical, mental, and emotional well-being of individuals of all ages. And as Ive learned over the past year, its an especially effective method for people on the autism spectrum.

    How To Find And Select An Art Therapist

    Art Therapy with Children with Autism

    Qualified art therapists hold a masters degree and are certified by the Art Therapy Credentials Board. Not all qualified art therapists, however, have specific experience working with people on the autism spectrum. Many specialize in working, for example, with trauma victims, individuals with mental illness, etc. To find an art therapist, start with the Art Therapy Credentials Board’s online therapist locator.

    When you’ve located a local therapist, call to find out what experience that individual has had with autism spectrum disorders. While extensive experience may not be critical, it is very important that the therapist you choose understands the specific issues, challenges, and strengths associated with autism. It’s important to note that art therapy is not just for young children, or even for children in general. Its usefulness has been established for people of all ages, including adults.

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    Art Therapy For Kids: 22 Activities To Help Your Child Cope And Heal

    My daughter recently asked what my favorite subject was in school, and while English seemed the obvious answer given my love for writing, I surprised both her and my husband when I said it was art class. While Ive never been particularly good at art, Ive always enjoyed having a creative outlet and have fond memories of working with different art mediums throughout my teens. I found it incredibly therapeutic, and the art center of my high school became a calming place where I was able to turn off all of the noise and drama that comes along with being a hormonal teenager and work through my thoughts.

    Ive found other outlets to help keep my emotions in check over the years, like running and writing and drinking wine , but as my daughter has gotten older and taken an interest in crafts, Ive developed an interest in art again. I love that it gives us a way to connect, and Ive been amazed at how much more my daughter shares with me when were coloring, painting, weaving, and making jewelry.

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    It got me thinking about art therapy for kids a concept I was introduced to years ago while researching for a post about childhood anxiety. I knew art therapy was effective in helping kids with anxiety, depression, trauma and grief, but had no idea it could be used to boost a childs self-esteem, improve their communication and problem-solving skills, and help with socialization.

    Process Is More Important Than Product

    In my experience treating ASD parents, I have seen a great deal of emphasis placed on the end result our days seem to be filled with goals, objectives, data, behavior plans, IEPs, and medication logs. All of these things have their place, but its important to balance them with the awareness of the actual process: the moments along the way to the goal that are filled with the most poignant and revelatory times with our children, when they are simply being loved and appreciated for who they are and what they CAN do. As an ASD mom, I know too well the longing for a picture I can hang on the fridge. But my art therapist doesnt place the value on a pretty picture or a completed sculpture. Rather, she stays with my son through the process of the art making, with a more important goal in mind: allowing him the freedom to be himself.

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    What To Expect In A Session

    A basic art therapy session is conducted by a trained, credentialed art therapist. Typically, the first session will involve the therapist getting to know the client and identifying the goals for treatment.

    Goals for autistic children may be to:

    • Better manage emotional outbursts.
    • Better express themselves.
    • Develop fine motor skills.

    After the goals of treatment have been identified, you will then work with the art therapist to create a treatment plan. Parental feedback is essential to the overall treatment planning process.

    During the next sessions, the therapist will guide your child through creating art at their skill level. This might mean using paints, markers, clay, construction paper, and other art tools. The therapist will observe the work without judgment, although they may record what they see as the child creates. For example, if the child becomes frustrated or easily distracted, the therapist will find a way to guide the child back to the artwork or offer them another way to make art.

    Older children may talk to the art therapist about memories or feelings associated with the art, while younger children or nonverbal children may not participate in this part of the process.

    The artwork may also reflect something your child is fixated on. One sign of autism is an obsessive focus on specific interests, to the exclusion of learning other, more general information or socializing with neurotypical peers.

    Why Is Art Therapy A Valid Way To Work With People On The Autism Spectrum

    Art Therapy for kids on the Autism Spectrum

    Most individuals on the autism spectrum have difficulty with social and verbal communication. Some are nonverbal, while others find it challenging to hold a conversation and are unable to read the body language and faces of others successfully.

    Art therapy allows people with ASD to use their already visually-minded brains to communicate through artistic media. They can record images and visual data, express ideas and process memories that they are unable to do verbally.

    It is often assumed that because someone is nonverbal or has limited verbal abilities that they are not intelligent, but this is untrue and unfair. However, because of this stigma, these individuals may not be exposed to art or other avenues for expression. Art therapy allows people with autism the chance to build communication skills in another way in a comfortable setting where they can find happiness and success.

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    Five Things I Learned About Autism From My Art Therapist

    An art therapist named Kelly came into my life unexpectedly when she called my office one day. In a serendipitous chain of events, she expressed interest in networking with other mental health professionals in the field of autism. I immediately hired her to work with my own teenage son, who is on the autism spectrum. I figured this would give me an opportunity to see her work firsthand and decide if she was a therapist I would recommend.

    She has worked with my son for the past year, and not only did I recommend her to every ASD mommy I know, I hired her to work in my private practicepartly so no one else would snatch her up, but mostly because of what I learned art therapy could do for kids with ASD.

    Art Therapy For People On The Autism Spectrum

    June 19, 2019|Natasha|General

    This post has been written by one of our contributors, Brenda Kimble. Autism is a neurological disorder that is evident at birth and the causes for this condition are presently unknown. Symptoms include social dysfunction, compulsive and repetitive behaviour, sensory sensitivity and lack of verbal communication. Conventional treatment typically involves behaviour modification, which alters negative actions through a reward and consequence system.

    For people on the autism spectrum, art is the perfect medium to encourage individuals to express themselves. Since children and adults with autism spectrum disorder are visual thinkers, art is a natural way to communicate how they feel and how they view the world.

    Those with ASD can share their understanding of the environment pictorially through drawing, painting, sculpting clay or other hands-on avenues. This allows individuals a chance to process the world in an accommodating, sensory and unrestricted way.

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    The Connections Therapy Center

    The Connections Therapy Center serves families of children and adolescents with disabilities and special needs. We are a team of experts in the fields of pediatric speech, occupational therapy, speech-language pathology, and behavioral sciences. As a team, we offer intensive hands-on therapy for children and adolescents, as well as informative and useful resources for families. If you are interested in learning more about what we can do to help your family, visit us online or give us a call at 577-4333. Want to get more information on how to help your child thrive? Follow us on , , , , and .

    Art Provides An Opportunity To Truly Be With Our Kids

    Art Therapy for Children With Autism

    Our children appreciate it when we just share the same space with them. Every day, most of the day, kids on the spectrum are told what to do, how to do it, and in what way. They have picture schedules, charts, and reminders to provide the almighty, great-and-powerful structure. Structure is often necessary and appreciated by kids, but art provides an opportunity for some unstructured structure. My son loves being able to choose big paper or little paper, crayons or paints, brush or fingers. He appreciates being asked, What would YOU like to do with these materials? All the while, his therapist is there to guide, encourage, and simply be present with him.

    How do I know that my son, who can barely chain enough words together to make a coherent sentence, appreciates these things? Because while hes creating in a therapy session and his therapist says, It looks like you have a lot to say today, and I just want you to know Im listening, he puts down his crayon, looks into her eyes, and gently strokes her cheek as the corners of his mouth turn up into a knowing smile. After all, if we want our children communicate with more than just words, we need to be able to listen with more than just our ears.

    © Copyright 2013 All rights reserved. Permission to publish granted by , Autism Spectrum Topic Expert Contributor

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