The Value of Art Therapy for Autism

Rolling Balls

Patience / Iris Grace

Kate Lacour is an Art Therapist based in New Orleans and is committed to following developments in the field of creative arts by and for those with Autism. Here are some of her thoughts and findings on how Art Therapy is an engaging and encouraging treatment for children with Autism.

With Autism rates on the rise in Australia, new treatments such as Art Therapy are helping children deal with the challenges they face.

Autism is a neurological condition present at birth, whose precise cause is as yet unknown. The symptoms of Autism include repetitive or compulsive behaviours, social impairment, problems with communication and trouble processing sensory information:

The most popular treatment of recent years is Behaviour Modification Therapy, which aims at shaping behaviours through a system of rewards and consequences. An alternative treatment that is gaining traction is Art Therapy.

One of the hallmarks of Autism is impaired communication. Verbal self-expression and language is often difficult. Art offers a way for people who have trouble “speaking their mind” with words to express themselves directly, without words. People with Autism are often highly visual thinkers, and many report that they “think in pictures.”

Art Therapy can also be a facilitator in forming connections with peers. Cooperation, turn-taking, respecting differences and other social skills can all be practiced in an enjoyable, natural setting. People with Autism may also struggle to comprehend other people’s perspectives; looking at a peer’s art work offers a concrete way to “see” another person’s point of view.

For more information on Autism, head to: autismspectrum.org.au

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The Benefits of Art Therapy for Learning Disabled Children

Paint by Touch / Stux

Art Therapy offers the creative and resilient child an opportunity to communicate their worries, questions, and their hopes in a symbolic form. This creates a sense of confidence and accomplishment. A child’s artwork is a record of problems met and solved and a symbol of goals reached.

Creating and working with art for children means that they learn more about themselves and helps them to feel more competent. More often than not, children come to their first session expecting to “mess up.” They are taught to celebrate the diversity of their work in comparison to other children and their uniqueness. This helps to boost their self-esteem and create a more positive sense of self.

Problems in real life are often paralleled during the art marking process. Working through these issues in the context of a creative outlet means that mistakes can be salvaged and problem-solving skills can be developed. This gives children a sense of strength and pride when goals have been successfully met. The ability to control impulse and increase tolerance to frustration is the key to this therapy.

It can offer children a safe place to discuss difficult feelings through a graphic medium. It provides a vehicle for uncomfortable or disruptive emotions to be discovered and gives the child a vehicle to focus and explore this emotions through art. There is no fear of retaliation or guilt experienced by a child visualising their frustration on paper, rather than on those around them.