Overview of Autism Spectrum Disorder
Autism spectrum disorder is a neurodevelopmental disorder with a wide range of symptoms and levels of impairment that impacts a child’s ability to communicate and interact with others. It also includes restricted and repetitive behaviors. These behaviors and issues can cause significant impairment in social, occupational and other areas of functioning. A 2010 survey by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention showed that the rate of children diagnosed with ASD had increased to 1 in 68 children, with boys being four to five times more likely to be affected. In New Jersey, the rates are even higher. While there is no cure for autism spectrum disorder, intensive, early treatment can make a big difference in the lives of many children.
Benefits of Art Therapy with children who have Autism Spectrum Disorder (ASD)
Children who have ASD can be anxious and may be chronically over-stimulated. They have difficulty with verbal expression and lack many tools of communication. Art therapy can be very helpful to these children who need a way of channeling their emotions and energy. Participating in a creative activity motivates children with ASD to connect with others and may provide them with a non-verbal means of communication or expression. Art therapists are trained to help children express themselves comfortably and at their level of functioning.
Art making can be a particularly effective therapy for people with autism. Because they tend to have difficulty processing sensory input and are often non-verbal, individuals on the spectrum respond well to visual, concrete, hands-on therapies. Many people who work with this population know this, and, whether or not they have art therapy training, include art making in their clients’ activities. There are limitations to our knowledge of why and how therapeutic art making actually works for individuals with ASD. These limitations of understanding result from the difficulty of standardized assessment, the near impossibility of quantifying the experience of making art, and the small number of art therapists publishing on the topic. Nonetheless, the abundant amount of research literature explicates that art making is an effective, clinically-sound treatment option for autism when supplemented with studies from the fields of art, art education, psychology, and other creative arts therapies.