Monday, August 18, 2014

How Art Therapy Benefits a Child with Autism

One of the biggest struggles children with autism face is verbal and social communication.

Autism impairs the development of the areas of the brain that control social interaction,
communication skills, and cognitive function. Twenty-five to 30% of children with autism learn some words at 12 to 18 months of age, and later lose them as a result of the autism. An estimated 40% of children with autism do not speak at all. But just because children with autism spectrum disorder (ASD) cannot always speak, does not mean that they don't have things to say.
Art activities for autistic children encourage them to express themselves in their own way. Art therapy uses the creative expression of art-making to improve and enhance the physical, mental, and emotional well-being of individuals of all ages. It is based on the belief that the creative process involved in artistic self-expression helps people to resolve conflicts and problems, develop interpersonal skills, manage behavior, reduce stress, increase self-esteem and self-awareness, and achieve insight.

While often limited in the area of verbal communication, many autistic kids have an incredible ability to think visually. With art therapy, many are able to channel that ability to process memories, record images and visual information, and express ideas, through drawing or other artistic media. And working individually with a therapist would encourage more of a one-on-one connection, as opposed to a classroom setting, which would likely be too overwhelming.

Sensory activities for autistic children prove most helpful, so things like kneading a lump of clay, finger painting, or playing with a glowing work pad in the dark can be very satisfying. Even something as simple as cleaning and organizing art materials can be enjoyable and helpful for the autistic child.

There are many different treatments for autism, but art therapy is one that can enable the autistic child to communicate in his or her own language, the universal language of artistic expression. It can be a helpful outlet, and a wonderful way for parent and child to connect.

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