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How Art Therapy Can Help People on the Autism Spectrum Communicate


by Jane Robertson

Many more people are becoming aware of the range of benefits that art therapy can bring to people. With a great deal of research and evidence to support it's health benefits, art therapy is now being used across healthcare in a range of different settings to help people with a variety of different needs, from supporting mental health, helping improve the quality of life for people with dementia, as well as helping people with developmental disorders such as ADHD and Autism. This article will look at the ways in which art can help people on the autism spectrum to communicate.

Why Art Therapy can help people with Autism

According to the American Art Therapy Association "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." Given that people with autism will experience difficulties in most of these aspects, art therapy is considered to be of particular benefit for people on the autism spectrum.

Opening the doors to communication

In particular, art therapy helps to aid the social and emotional development of people with autism by providing them with an important outlet for emotional expression in a safe and controlled environment. While this has great potential to benefit all people with autism whose ability for verbal communication may be impaired, it is particularly important for those who are non-verbal or who have very little speech. Having another outlet through an activity which is also enjoyable and therapeutic, helps people with autism to express and explore their thoughts, feelings and ideas.

Complimenting the autistic mind

People with autism are also often highly intelligent and creative, and some interesting research shows that they tend to think in pictures, which is another reason why art is considered to be such a good mode of expression, if not integral part of someone's emotional and social development.

It provides someone with autism with a way to process, understand and relate to the world, which can otherwise be quite confusing and overwhelming. In this way, creating art helps give people with autism a voice. In addition, art is considered to be a very meditative and mindful activity, and the soothing and therapeutic qualities of making art can greatly help to calm those that may have a tendency towards being quite hyperactive or overly excitable.

Experimenting with different materials and styles

Trying out a range of different art styles and materials is thought to be highly beneficial, such as drawing, painting with different brushes, sculpture and textiles. Using different implements and creating art in a variety of ways helps someone to develop their fine and gross motor skills, which leads to better coordination and the ability to carry out more complex tasks.

This can help amplify someone's social life as they are able to engage with a wider range of hobbies and join in with a range of different sports and activities. It can also help someone with autism learn how to cope with unexpected situations which can be another real difficulty.

This article was written by Jane Robertson who is a freelance writer. We thank her for her work.