Art Therapy As An Intervention For Autism

Art Therapy as an Intervention for Autism
Autism is a developmental disorder usually diagnosed very early in a child’s development. The disorder has varying degrees of severity, but is most often “characterized by impairments in social interactions, interests and activities, and language development” (Emery, 143). Autistic children have trouble processing and cognitively filtering out information from the outside world. Often times, Autistic children can feel overwhelmed, over stimulated, and anxious. Therefore, mechanisms and tools to alleviate this anxiety and help acclimatize the autistic child to the world are a vital treatment for children with this disorder.
One such treatment is using art therapy as an intervention for those who suffer from autism. Art therapy’s goals are to help the student grow developmentally and socially. By helping the student grow in these areas, the hopeful result is to reduce the child’s anxiety and frustration and allow them an outlet for interacting with society and expressing themselves. Because autistic children often have trouble with language development, creating art is a wonderful way for students to express themselves.
The art therapy also fosters a positive social relationship between the art therapist and the autistic student. The author of the article, an art therapist, describes her experience in building relationships with autistic students as being very positive. She states, “when this relationship has time to develop, the autistic symptoms become less evident” (Emery, 145). She further states that what motivates non-autistic children is very different than what motivates autistic children. She points out that autistic children enjoy the process and have little acknowledgment for completion of a task. She also describes that autistic children rarely show emotion towards people or activities and may often direct their attention to insignificant objects.
The article goes into detail about the development of a six year old boy with autism (without mental retardation) undergoing art therapy. The author cites improvements in the child’s object constancy and language development. Through parental support and art therapy this particular child was able to grow developmentally and relate a bit better to the world around him. Art therapy is an innovative and creative outlet for children with autism to explore and benefit from.
Created by: Hillary Mason
Emery, M., Art Therapy as an Intervention for Autism. Journal of the American Art
Therapy Association, 21(3) pp. 143-147: AATA, Inc., 2004.