How Art Therapy Can Help Children With Autism Communicate Better

Photo Credit:Donovan Valdivia

Guest Article by Jane Sandwood 

Jane has many articles related to education and children and can be reached at janesandwood.writer@gmail.com

About 1 in 59 children is diagnosed with autism spectrum disorder (ASD), and one of the early signs observed by parents and caregivers is a delay in their social and communication skills. Children with autism have a hard time expressing themselves and communicating with others, and these difficulties can become more debilitating as they grow older. This is why early diagnosis and interventions are crucial for children with ASD. Apart from traditional interventions, parents and practitioners have utilized alternative methods like art therapy to improve the communication skills of children with ASD.

The Importance Of Early Interventions For Children With Autism

Due to their difficulty in communicating with others, children with ASD may develop aggressive behaviors, self-injurious behaviors, social withdrawal, as well as feelings of loneliness and depression. Autism can also co-occur with other conditions such as anxiety, attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD), clinical depression, motor difficulties and sleep problems. Thus, it’s important to address these issues as early as possible and provide children with the interventions they need to cope with these difficulties. Traditional interventions include applied behavior analysis (ABA) therapy, social skills training and psychopharmacotherapy.

Alternative treatments and interventions are also being used to provide children with ASD with the techniques and tools they need to have a better quality of life. This includes mindfulness-based therapy and art therapy. Mindfulness is all about awareness of one’s mind, body and environment. It can help children with ASD improve their interpersonal skills as well as control their behavior. In one study, a mindfulness program was able to decrease anxiety, depression and rumination among individuals with ASD. Meanwhile, art therapy can help children with ASD identify and recognize their feelings as well as use art to communicate with others.

How Art Therapy Can Improve Communication Skills

Art therapy can help children with ASD pay attention and engage with their surroundings more as well as communicate better with other people. As visual and concrete thinkers, art therapy can be used to explain certain situations to children with ASD and give them a visual way of solving problems. This can be more effective compared to a theoretical discussion that deals with abstract situations or problems.

Art therapy can also be adapted to the specific needs of a child diagnosed with autism. For example, a child with sensory modulation difficulties may become more engaged when provided with a variety of art materials and mediums. The sensory nature of drawing or painting can encourage these children to express themselves more.

As children become teens or adults, art therapy can still be used to enhance their social and communication skills. Art-based group activities can provide individuals with autism a social environment that is supportive and understanding of their experiences. Within the group, they can share about their artworks and a therapist can provide prompts that will encourage them to successfully converse with others.

Aggressive and self-injurious behaviors from children with ASD can be due to difficulty expressing themselves and communicating effectively with others. Studies have found that alternative interventions such as art therapy, especially when utilized at a young age, can help with self-expression as well as improve their communication skills. Not only that, parents, caregivers and teachers can also use art therapy to understand children with ASD. Their artwork can provide insight into how they view others as well as their unique experiences. As such, art therapy can be a very valuable tool not just for children with ASD but also or their families, teachers and friends.

About Sanford

Learning Disabilities specialist and Educational Consultant
This entry was posted in Discussion Topics, Education Issues and Ideas. Bookmark the permalink.

2 Responses to How Art Therapy Can Help Children With Autism Communicate Better

  1. Can dancing be their therapy too?

  2. Sanford says:

    Pearlspakc,

    Why not? Autism is primarily a social communication issue and dancing like any expressive act can be a tool. Depending upon the type of dancing it can also be a sensory regulator and also a social connector.

    Do you have some thoughts about this?

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