Symptoms within autism vary depending on the child, but most autism spectrum disorder (ASD) impairments generally fall into three categories that can be helped by specific autism therapies. These main categories are communication impairment, social difficulties, and repetitive movement symptoms.
Just like autism itself, autism therapies vary along a spectrum of treatments. One treatment that has been gaining ground with therapists is the use of art to improve the symptoms found in children impacted by autism.
Why is art therapy an effective treatment?
There have been many studies (including one by Banks in 1993) that demonstrate how art therapy can help break through the barriers that most autistic children experience.
Increased communication. Unlike other autism therapies, art can help increase the communication skills by opening up pathways to under developed regions of a child’s brain. It’s a great way for a child with ASD to express non-verbally too—as a child creates art, they are actually learning to communicate in a symbolic way. Art therapists use a method called Mirroring (mimicking a child’s artistic approach) in order to first build trust. This is called creating a corrective attachment experience, as written by Henley in 2001.
Integrated senses. A second way art therapy can help in ways other autism therapies might not is in the area of sensory integration. When creating various types of art, whether painting or sculpting, a child with ASD has to integrate sight, hearing and even touch into each project.
Better sense of self. Lastly, art therapy can help a child with ASD build a more confident sense of self, while helping to minimize negative behaviors over time. Creativity wakes up the brain and creating something for themselves can give a child pride and a sense of accomplishment.
There have been many cases of autistic children excelling at art and music, with exhibits held around the world. Anyone seeking autism therapies should do more research on the subject and talk to a qualified art therapist to see what options are available.
October 10, 2012, cornerstoneac