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5 Ways Art Therapy Helps in the Treatment of Autism

How Art Therapy Aids in the Treatment of Autism

  • Alternative to Verbal Communication
  • Aid in Development of Social Skills
  • Address Sensory Processing Disorder
  • Address Compulsive Conduct
  • Aid in Understanding Perspective of Others

Art therapy is widely utilized to assist in the treatment of individuals with a range of different mental and emotional disorders. A person diagnosed with autism, or autism spectrum disorder, can benefit from art therapy. Indeed, this therapeutic option is being more widely utilized with individuals diagnosed with autism.

Autism, or autism spectrum disorder (ASD), refers to a broad range of conditions characterized by challenges with social skills, repetitive behaviors, speech, and nonverbal communication.

See our ranking of The Best Undergraduate Degrees in Art Therapy Ranked by Affordability.

1. Alternative to Verbal Communication

A key hallmark of autism is impaired communication skills. Many individuals diagnosed with autism have a marked difficulty with verbal self-expression. Indeed, a notable percentage of people with autism are nonverbal.

Individuals with autism oftentimes are highly visual thinkers. Thus, artistic-based therapy allows these people the ability to "speak" in pictures. They are able to express their feelings vividly through the use of art.

2. Aid in Development of Social Skills

Individuals on the autism spectrum also tend to struggle in social situations and with social issues. They are often uncomfortable in attempting to relate to others. This discomfort extends to therapists.

Through the use of art therapy, a person with autism is better able to express his or herself with others. This includes more effectively conveying thoughts, feelings, and information to a therapist.

3. Address Sensory Processing Disorder

Another common issue afflicting a person on the autism spectrum is what is known as sensory processing disorder, or SPD, according to WebMD. SPD causes what are innocuous sensations to people without autism to be highly irritating or even excruciating to a person with autism. These can include everything from the texture of something to crunchy food to the hum of a refrigerator and any host of other sensations. One of the objectives of this type of therapy is to increase the tolerance of a person on the autism spectrum to this type of stimuli.

4. Address Compulsive Conduct

Compulsive behavior is another hallmark of a person with autism. In some cases, the use of art therapy can be useful in lessening compulsive conduct. For example, a person with autism might compulsively shred paper into strips. One technique to gain some control over this behavior is to channel it into something productive. Strips of paper can be incorporated into an art project as part of an overall therapeutic endeavor.

5. Aid in Understanding Perspective of Others

Art therapy can also be useful in assisting a person with autism to better understand the perspective of other people. Through art, a person with autism is given a channel through which he or she can form more meaningful connections with peers. Art allows a person on the autism spectrum the ability to better understand another individual's point of view.

There are now art therapists that specialize in working with people diagnosed with autism. As greater focus is placed on aiding people on the autism spectrum, the use of art therapy is likely to begin to play an even larger role in therapy.