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The Value of Art Therapy for Individuals on the Autism Spectrum

The Value of Art Therapy for Individuals on the Autism Spectrum

Autism is a neurological condition present at birth, whose precise cause is as yet unknown. It seems like everyone knows someone who is somewhere on the autism spectrum.

Autism is a neurological condition present at birth, whose precise cause is as yet unknown. It seems like everyone knows someone who is somewhere on the autism spectrum.  Symptoms of autism spectrum disorders include repetitive or compulsive behaviors, social impairment, problems with communication, and trouble processing sensory information (such as hypersensitivity to sounds). The traditional treatment for these disorders is called “behavior modification therapy.” Basically, caregivers motivate individuals with a reward system, and discourage unfavorable behavior.  Art therapy can either be used with this or as an alternative, it all depends on what works for the client.

Provides an Alternative to Verbal Communication

People with autism frequently have significant difficulty communicating verbally.  Art therapy eliminates that barrier.  If a client is having difficulty expressing themselves, all they need to do is draw their feelings.  It’s called the autism spectrum, right? Let them have colors!

Art Therapy Can Help Clients Develop Social Skills

Direct, face-to-face interaction is difficult and often intimidating for individuals with autism.  When an art therapist works with a client, the initial focus is on the art.  It takes quite a bit of the pressure off of the client to try to verbally express things. Art is also a fantastic way for autistic individuals to bond with their peers. Taking turns showing their work, taking time to appreciate something created by another person, and respecting each other’s differences all help clients develop and build social skills.

It Helps Address Sensory Processing Disorder

Art Therapy also helps clients with sensory processing disorder (SPD). SPD is extremely common among individuals with autism, yet it is often overlooked. Certain sounds, sights, and textures that average people think nothing of can be irritating or even excruciating to someone with autism. One of the biggest goals of art therapy is to decrease clients’ sensitivity to unpleasant stimuli. When a client repeatedly faces something they normally find unpleasant in a controlled environment, they will be less sensitive to that sensation in their everyday life.

Compulsive Shredding of Paper Turned into Gorgeous Collages

Many autistic individuals are comforted by shredding paper, and they get upset when they’re `discouraged from doing so.  Instead of discouraging this behavior, an art therapist encourages it.  And then, they help clients turn this seemingly destructive habit into works of art. The most important thing to remember about art therapy is that the goal is not to create aesthetically pleasing work. It is to give autistic individuals the freedom to be themselves. Beauty is just a happy by-product.

Welcome to Family Service Foundation, Inc.!

Family Service Foundation, Inc. has been serving the greater Maryland area since 1936. This nonprofit organization helps Maryland residents across a span of different areas such as mental health, developmental disabilities, and substance abuse, and provides interpretation for deaf and deaf-blind individuals. To learn more about autism spectrum disorder or developmental disabilitiesvisit here.