Welcome to Autism Blueprint Quick Tips; A mini episode where I share a quick nugget of knowledge to help you on your autism journey.
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Today’s Topic: Art Therapy For Autism
- What is art therapy?
- How can art therapy help my child?
- How can I find an art therapist?
Mentioned on the podcast:
To find an art therapist in your area: www.arttherapy.org
Here’s a previous episode where I interviewed Kelly DeSousa, the art therapist I mentioned in the episode, along with her business partner, Sarah Beaman. Their practice, Indigo Art Therapy Studio, is in Jacksonville, Florida.
A few of our favorite things:
Here are a few of our favorite kid-friendly, autism-supportive, art supplies:
Disclaimer: although we do receive a small referral commission for each of the following tools, we would still recommend them if we didn’t.
Model Magic Clay- air dries
See more of Ben’s art on his Instagram page
If you have a child whose been recently diagnosed (within the past two years) you know how difficult this time can be. Building Your Foundation: What To Do After Your Child Is Diagnosed with Autism is an online course where Janeen will teach you all the things she wishes she had known when her child was diagnosed.
Join our launch team to be the first to know when it’s ready and receive valuable discounts.
Transcript of the Episode
As the mother of a son with profound autism, I thought I had been to every therapy there was for kids on the spectrum; speech, occupational, physical, hippotherapy, play therapy, aqua therapy, hyperbaric oxygen, you name it, we had done it. Each of these therapies has helped my son along the way. So when art therapy came into my life, almost by accident, I hadn’t really considered it. Once I started it with my son, after meeting a local art therapist named Kelly, who specialized in autism, I was very impressed by the results. Here are a few things I’ve learned from Kelly, about autism:
Art Therapy Is Not “Arts and Crafts”
The American Art Therapy Association (www.arttherapy.org), describes art therapy as a “mental health profession that uses the creative process of art making to improve and enhance the physical, mental and emotional well-being of individuals of all ages.” And that’s exactly what it is. Not all art therapists are willing or knowledgeable enough to work with kids on the spectrum. But those who are can use art directives to help kids work toward almost any goal. In art therapy, there’s less concern with a final product and more focus on the process or experience the person has during the therapy session.
Art Can Be A Communication Tool
It has been said that “Just because a child can’t speak, doesn’t mean they don’t have anything to say.” Through art therapy, my son has been able to express himself much more than ever. Joy, anger and even loneliness have been a few of the feelings he wasn’t able to previously articulate. There have been a few special moments when he has revealed things to his therapist without using verbal language, because he felt safe and accepted just as he is.
Art Can Be A Self-Regulation Tool
Therapy is effective in teaching children what to do with scary, larger-than-life emotions. But for kids with ASD this is an even bigger challenge since many of them have sensory integration difficulties. Sounds are often experienced louder, their sense of touch can be over or under sensitive, and their ability to move their body in space can be altered. Through art, instead of banging his head when he gets upset, my son can now squeeze some play-doh. When he experiences strange sensations, he can create in a sand tray or play in water to help his body adjust. And when the light in the art therapy room is too much, his therapist dims lights and they have “glow time” with a special board that lights up and art can be created on top of it.
Process Vs. Product
In the world of ASD, a great deal of emphasis placed on the end result; Our kids’ schedules are filled with goals, objectives, data, behavior plans, IEPs, and medication logs. These things certainly have their time and place, but it’s important to balance measurable goals with a respect for the therapeutic process: The moments of engagement en route to the goal can be the most poignant and impactful times with our children. Amazing things happen when they are simply being loved and appreciated for who they are and what they CAN do. I know too well the desire for a hang-on-the-fridge-worthy masterpiece. But my art therapist places more value on the time spent together instead of the finished product. She stays with her ASD clients through the art-making process, with a more important goal: Allowing them the freedom to be themselves.
Art Can Connect Us To Our Kids.
Our kids relish it when we can just share the same space with them. On a daily basis children on the spectrum are told what to do and how to do it. There are picture schedules, visual reminders and apps that provide reminders of the great-and-powerful “structure”. Structure is often necessary for our kids, but art provides the gift of “un-structured structure”. My son loves being able to choose markers or paints, big paper or little paper, making a masterpiece or making a mess. Art therapy is one of the few times he is asked, “What would YOU like to do with these materials?” The therapist’s job is simply to encourage, guide, and be “present”. How am I certain that my son, who struggles to chain enough words together to make a simple sentence, appreciates this? Because when he’s working in a session, and his art therapist says, “You have a lot to say today, and I just want you to know I’m listening,” he puts down his brush, gazes into her eyes and gently strokes her cheek with a knowing smile. At the end of the day, if we want our kids to communicate with more than just words, we need to be able to listen with more than our ears.
Music in this episode: Happy Whistling Ukelele by Sea Stock
Disclaimer: The information in this podcast is not intended to be a substitute for help from a licensed mental health professional.