Autism Spectrum Disorder (ASD) is a diverse neuropsychiatric condition that manifests in a wide range of symptoms. One of the more common symptoms is difficulty with communicating. According to the Center for Disease Control (CDC), many of the indicators of a potential autistic spectrum condition are related to communication.
Contributed by Jane Naylor
These include decreased verbal expression in low functioning ASD and odd and stilted speech in high functioning ASD. These symptoms lead to situations where people diagnosed with autism, and in particular children, are disadvantaged by their inability to communicate fully. Artwork is a potential solution to the severe communication issues in ASD.
A scientifically proven therapy
Art therapy is already established as a method of treatment for autistic children. According to a 2017 Florida State University study, art therapy is the most efficacious way of addressing communication problems in children diagnosed with autism.
One of the reasons why artwork is helpful is the methodical way in which it is often completed. For example, drawing a cartoon plant or animal successfully isn’t difficult, but following the same routines and processes each time to improve the drawing takes repeated practice.
This improvement leads to a sense of achievement. The Florida State study also suggests that children who undergo art therapy achieve a sense of stability and comfort that enables them to go on to further success.
Potential dangers in processes
While there are huge benefits to be gained from a methodical process, the same study warned that therapists must be prepared to put aside the ‘creative’ process – that is, working in a free form manner.
A review article in the Review Journal of Autism and Developmental Disorders in 2015 noted how emotionally painful change can be for many diagnosed with autism.
Movement from tried and trusted processes, while often necessary, had severe psychological impacts. For therapists, there will come a time when the move to new art forms and processes is needed. However, the article recommended to conduct this in a rigid and structured way, rather than taking an ‘avant garde’ approach to art.
Art therapy is not just effective for treating children. According to Very Well Health, using art therapy to help treat adults diagnosed with autism helps to develop skills that may have been neglected as a child. These can include fine motor skills, imaginative/symbolic thinking, and recognizing facial expressions.
ASD often causes children to miss out on many aspects of typical childhood education, but art therapy can help fill in those missing parts even in adulthood. It can also enhance the essential skills people with ASD have worked so hard to develop.