Art therapy is thought to naturally complement the autistic mind as studies show that many autistic people think in pictures.
The world can be quite a scary and confusing place for people with autism, especially children.
Art therapy can help provide them with an important opportunity to be able to process and understand the world in a way that they can relate to.
This article will look at some of the different ways in which art therapy can benefit children with Autistic Spectrum Disorder (ASD).
Art therapy can help autistic children with a range of common difficulties
Research shows that art therapy can help children with autism in particular to help process and manage their emotions as well as improve their social and interpersonal skills.
The American Art Therapy Association believes that “the creative process involved in artistic self-expression helps people to resolve conflicts and problems, develop interpersonal skills, manage behaviour, reduce stress, increase self-esteem, and self-awareness, and achieve insight."
As people with ASD tend to have many needs in these areas, it is seen to be of particular benefit to them and indeed research shows that this is the case.
An important self-developmental tool for the non-verbal
Art therapy is particularly valuable for children with autism as it provides an important alternative to verbal communication. This is helpful for people with ASD in general for whom communication can be impaired.
However, it is particularly important as a means to self-expression for the nonverbal or those with very limited speech. First of all, it can help really calm down a non-verbal child who may be prone to being quite over-excitable.
Beyond that, it provides them with a therapeutic way to channel and manage their emotions in a controlled environment, and over time, it can help to greatly build confidence and self-esteem.
Trying out different styles and materials can improve motor skills
Trying out a range of different art materials and styles from painting, to drawing and sketching, or even moulding objects out of clay will help you find a child’s preferred medium of expression, and in the process of doing so, it will also help improve their fine and gross motor skills.
This in turn can help improve coordination and the ability to be able to engage with more complex activities and tasks. Trying out lots of different materials and styles can also help an autistic child become more accustomed to coping with unfamiliar situations.
Art therapy can help with a child’s social development
A ‘round robin’ exercise is a common activity for a group situation to help children pick up important social and interpersonal skills. This is where children will collaborate on a piece of artwork together and pass it around the group for each individual to add something new each time.
This can help children learn to better relate and empathise with one another, as they can learn to understand and see the intention of the last person that contributed, and then follow on from it.
The mere act of creating art together in a group is valuable for a child’s social development, looking at what other people are doing, sharing ideas and helping each other will help them make friends, develop social skills and build their confidence.