Art has always been an effective form of self-expression, whether in a visual, performance, or interactive setting. It gives us the opportunity to create something in the world that is a true representation of ourselves. It allows us to communicate through a completely different channel other than using words. This is especially true in individuals with autism.
The benefits of art therapy to those with autism, as well as those conducting the therapy, are countless. A blog post from Autism Key highlights that, due to sensory issues, children with autism are much more visually oriented, and the patterns and textures associated with art are extremely therapeutic. One-on-one art therapy sessions have shown beneficial results, such as a better ability to manage sensory issues, expansion of the child’s ability to use imagination, and even an improved ability for facial expression and emotive recognition.
Especially in nonverbal children, art can be used as a form of communication. Children are able to create and refer back to these visual pieces, and often use them to convey desires or emotions to others. The therapy also allows for an improved interaction with others, all with the common goal of creating something expressive. It gives children a sense of pride, and it is fun!
Here at Shema Kolainu, art therapy has been a crucial part of education since September 2006. Each child is able to explore his or her own ways of artistic expression, allowing for communication development. Activities such as finger painting, experimenting with textured materials such as sand or foam dough, and creating their own musical instruments are used to enhance the sensory experience while working together to create art pieces. The guidance of art therapists has inspired children who otherwise might not be interested in art to broaden their horizons based on their own individual personalities and levels of functioning.
An article from about.com highlights the importance that nonverbal people with autism are often assumed to be incompetent in other areas, limiting artistic opportunity. Art therapy is able to break down these walls and allow individuals on the spectrum to learn new skills and build on abilities in an effective, nonjudgmental way. Art therapy can show levels of competency that otherwise would go unnoticed without verbal communication.