Art therapy and autism

Art therapy is a form of expressive therapy that uses the creative process of making art to improve a person’s physical, mental, and emotional well-being. Using arts and crafts in a therapeutic activity taps into a person’s imagination helping them to express their thoughts and feelings in a way that is just isn’t possible by talking. I was introduced to arts and crafts early on as a child. I was drawing, painting and playing with playdoh way before I received my diagnosis. Like with any child my early years were the most crucial period of` learning so finding a variety of creative ways to express myself helped with my social development as well as emotional wellbeing.

Helping someone with autism to move beyond scribbling and discover new ways of communicating through art is a gradual process that requires subtle guidance and gentle encouragement. My autism affects the way I verbally communicate so for me, unlocking my interest and motivation for engaging in creative processes such as drawing has been like discovering a new language. Finding a new way to express myself helps me to connect with people and improves the quality of my life no end.

 

Wrapped Adrian

It can be incredibly frustrating for me when I have something really important to say because most people don’t have a clue as to what I am saying. I like to speak and use my voice but I have to remember that my words and sentences are very hard for someone to understand, especially if the person I am talking to isn’t use to hearing me speak. The people in my life that have developed an ear for my speech and can understand me much better than someone hearing me for the first time, but on the whole a conversation with me requires a lot of patients for both of us.


 “I discovered that drawing was a useful way of explaining something complicated to someone.”


 When your ability to communicate is limited you begin you find new ways to express your thoughts and feelings. I discovered that drawing was a useful way of explaining something complicated to someone. I would a draw social situation and use the drawing to help the person listening to guess the words and sentences they struggled to understand.

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I really enjoy arts and crafts and regularly make greeting cards with my mum to celebrate friends and families Birthdays. This form of art therapy helps me to create a written form  of communication with my friends and family helping me to stay connected with people. My brother Mark loves drawing as much as I do and we would sometimes draw together. When we created my book ‘I Am Adrian’ Mark illustrated the book with drawings of me in a style inspired by my own drawings. This blog will require lots more drawings so we both plan on creating enough artwork to make this blog as colourful and creative as possible. We plan to create a drawing for each post so it’s more fun for people to read. It also helps me to feel connected to what I am expressing in the writing.



Artists Who Are On The Spectrum 

People who struggle to communicate in conventional ways have to find alternative means to express themselves and its not always easy. For some this search for an effective form of communication can take years. Those of us who find it in art are often lucky enough to discover it in childhood because arts and crafts play a big part in early childhood development. My brother Mark and I have always loved all types of arts and crafts, from drawing and painting to collage and sculpting. Read more… 

Here are some artists we admire who are on the spectrum


Art Therapy Ideas 

My brother Mark and I have come up with some great ideas for some art therapy activities that may work for you. Each was designed to be lots of fun and very creative whilst at the same time helping me to process my thoughts and feelings, reduce stress, and improve self-esteem and awareness. Read more…

1) OUTLINE ME
2) CRESS EGG HEADS

 

Art Therapy and Autism Books

The early years are the most critical period of learning for a child with autism. Therapeutic art-making can be a useful tool to tap into their imaginations and help them to express their thoughts and feelings. Read more…

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22 thoughts on “Art therapy and autism”

  1. I loved this article in particular, very elegant and sensitive to the special world of Autism, and how art therapy can create a line of communication.

    beautiful!

    1. Hello Peter, Adrian and I have always used art and nature to communicate. I have always found it to be better than talking. Alternative styles of communication can open our minds up to many possibilities. Please keep an eye out for more posts on this subject. Best Mark

  2. I feel very inspired after reading this. I am desperate to learn new ways to connect with my son. I can already see how art therapy could help.

    Thank you

    PS. Good book reviews, its hard to select this sort of thing when there is so much choice

    1. Hello Jo, please let us know how it goes. We would love to hear about your progress. Which art therapy book did you find helpful? Best Mark

  3. Hi

    You have a gorgeous site. I’ll certainly be reading more of your site as I have bookmarked your page.

    I use scrapbooking as a means of expressing myself especially when I am feeling frustrated, tired or full of anxiety. The latter is a bit of a problem for but I do find that art creates a whole new world for me.

    Take Care

    Michelle

    1. I feel the same. When Im creating art I feel very much in the moment and very calm. Adrian loves all types of arts and crafts but can lose interest fairly quickly without some gentle guidance and structure. Art therapy can help us get more out of our art by encouraging us to explore our thoughts and ideas.

  4. I have the Asperger syndrome and even though not as bad as most I do struggle with anger and relating to people. Your post on art therapy is very helpful and I never thought about drawing as an adult. As a child none knew what was wrong with me. I was the little odd girl that none wanted to be friends with. I use to draw and it help me so much so I think I will start that again. Great post.

    1. I think everyone could benefit from being more creative. Creating a drawing or painting can be a wonderful way of calming your mind or processing overwhelming feelings. What type of art do you enjoy making?

  5. Hi Mark,
    What a great article and I really like the way you have referred to your own personal experiences throughout it. Your sense of frustration at expressing yourself verbally comes across, so it’s great you are sharing the idea that arts and crafts can help autistic people to communicate and share ideas more effectively. Another thing I like is the handy reference books you have attached to the article – a good idea for people who want to learn more!
    All the best to you and I look forward to seeing more of your own artwork attached to these posts.
    Mara

    1. Thank you Mara, I have written the blog for my brother as though its is him who is writing it. I wanted to put it all in the first person so I am always thinking from his point of view. He is unable to read and write so I am his ghost writer 🙂

  6. Thanks for share this article. It’s very noble to share good information about autism. Did you know any person with this syndrome? Because I believe that anyone can have the same rights and trying to share with this people so they can feel include in our modern society. Wish you the best.

    1. Hi Alfred, thank you for your comment. I write this blog as a ghostwriter for my brother Adrian who is on the autistic spectrum. I try very hard to be his voice and choose subjects that I know he would want to share with the world. He can’t read or write and his speech is very limited. I felt the need to share his story in a way that was honest to him. 🙂

  7. I really loved this post. I have a loved one who has autism, and while he is verbal and can communicate his feelings most of the time, Art Therapy seems like it would be useful for him as a communication tool as it would help to diffuse any confusing or “unprocessed” emotions and allow him to express what he is feeling in a healthy, creative, and constructive way.

    1. I totally agree but if art therapy doesn’t work look into other interests where the interaction between you both involves taking turns. It’s a way of interacting that can be less intense. The last thing a person with autism needs is for someone to be ‘in their face’ so to speak. It’s all about giving each other space so their is a comfortable situation for them to work in. 🙂

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