Art Therapy and Children on the Spectrum

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Why Art Therapy for Autism Spectrum Disorder?

Art Therapy offers the opportunity to learn and practice many skills around social and emotional awareness that children on the Autism Spectrum struggle with. Self-expression and maintaining and developing relationships are explored and enhanced through both the therapeutic relationship and art therapy. This is because the relationship established between a client and the therapist can help to promote healthy and safe attachments. Plus, the art making component builds on that relationship and offers an alternative form of communication, sensory integration, self-expression, and promotes cognitive emotional development.

Next, lets explore who art therapy is a good fit for, and what you can expect your child to get out of of art therapy.

How to tell if Art Therapy a good fit for your child:

• Does you child struggle with: self-expression, relationship building, emotional regulation, abstract thinking, sensory processing deficits, and/or communication?

• Is your child interested in creative processes?

• As a parent, are you willing to actively participate in your child’s therapeutic treatment while respecting therapeutic boundaries?

If you answered yes to the questions above, your child may benefit from art therapy. Next, I will provide an overview of common treatment goals and what you can expect from individual and group art therapy sessions.

Common Child Autism Spectrum Disorder Treatment Goals using Art Therapy:

Imagination/Abstract Thinking:
Art therapy can help your child display age-appropriate imagination and abstract thinking skills.

Sensory Regulation & Integration
Art therapy can improve your child’s ability to regulate his or her body and integrate sensory experiences.

Children learn to use art to externalize and process thoughts and feelings. Improving communication and connection between children and their caregivers.

Developmental Growth
Art therapy helps children hit important milestones like age-appropriate drawing ability, fine motor skills, overall artistic development and can be used to improve other relevant deficit areas that can be addressed using art.

Visual-Spatial Skills
Art therapy improves the child’s ability to negotiate and render/model in both two and three-dimensional space as well as the ability to mentally rotate objects.

Recreation/Leisure Skills
Art therapy helps children on the spectrum develop productive, enjoyable leisure activities and generalize them to the home and other natural environments.

Developing Self-identity/Empowerment
Using art making can help children explore, learn, and discuss the different components of an Autism Spectrum Disorder diagnosis that empowers them to build a positive self-identity.

Reduce Anxiety/Stress
Art therapy also implements learning coping skills through the creative process, including mindfulness, deep breathing, and guided imagery that can improve emotional self-regulation.

Art Therapy individual sessions are individually tailored to your child’s needs. The child will lead the therapist to what materials naturally pique their interest. From there, the art therapist will create a treatment plan that includes goals and objectives. You as the parents or caregivers will be included as active participants in the therapeutic process.

Art Therapy group sessions are based on a common goal. All group members will be screened to make sure they are an appropriate fit, and members will be placed according to similar developmental and emotional needs. There is a big social and communication component to every group that children on the spectrum can benefit from. Because many individuals diagnosed with ASD are visual thinkers, artwork can facilitate forming connections with peers because it offers a concrete way to see an other’s perspective.

If you’re considering art therapy for your child I invite you to connect with me!

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