What comes to mind when you hear art? Art is an umbrella term for many creative outlets such as theater, music, dance, literature, and more. Although all art forms bring value to people in different ways, we will focus on visual arts. Visual arts refers to drawing, painting, collage, coloring, sculpting, and much more.
Art has helped people of all ages explore their emotions, manage stress, relieve anxiety, among other things. It can also be used as a form of treatment for people with autism spectrum disorder (ASD). Art therapy can be helpful to people on the spectrum, because it mitigates symptoms while channeling autistic behaviors into an expressive and creative outlet. Keep reading to learn about the benefits of art for children on the autism spectrum.
Art is beneficial for language development and communication skills in all children, including those with ASD. People with ASD tend to be visual thinkers, so creating visual art can help them process and express their thoughts. Another notable characteristic of ASD is trouble with communication, especially verbal self-expression. These communication challenges can range from mild to severe. For children with a lot of difficulty expressing themselves verbally, creating art provides a way to communicate without words. For these children, art can be a nice escape from their daily struggle surrounded by verbal communication. For other kids on the spectrum as well as neurotypical children, making art can help them become more comfortable communicating verbally.
Working on a craft or an art project can be a great way for children to practice patience, improve focus, and encourage time for reflection. Art is also good for children who struggle with emotional stability, which is common among those on the spectrum. Being creative with art allows children to not only communicate nonverbally but also allows them to convey emotions and express feelings. Art therapy activities are meditative, quiet, and relaxing for most, this helps calm the nervous system. By participating in these activities, children on the spectrum can soothe symptoms of stress, reduce anxiety, and improve their overall emotional well-being.
An art class or workshop is a great place for children to build connections, make friends, and can provide them with a sense of belonging. Navigating the social world is difficult, especially for those with ASD. Art classes teach plenty of social skills like teamwork, turn-taking, and respecting differences, in a more fun and relaxed environment. Collaborating on a piece of artwork is also beneficial for a child’s development and teaches empathy and understanding. People with ASD typically struggle with interpreting tones of voice, understanding facial expressions, and relating to others. For those reasons, one-on-one conversations can be quite daunting for people on the spectrum. A conversation centered around art, for example, takes away some of the pressure of a direct face-to-face interaction. Furthemore, hearing someone’s perspective while seeing it in the form of art can be very valuable.
Confidence and Self-Esteem
Art promotes self-expression which can help boost confidence. Creating art can also provide children with a sense of purpose. There are so many types of art, and the best thing about it is that there is no right or wrong. For this reason, art is incredibly valuable to children who may be struggling in school or in social situations. It is not good for a child’s self-esteem to be told that they are wrong on a regular basis, whether its bad grades or school bullies. If you have a child who is interested in art, let them talk about their art and ask them open-ended questions about it. You can also celebrate their work by complimenting the art, providing thoughtful feedback, and praising their effort. Let your child decide what they want to paint or draw and resist the urge to make changes. All of these efforts will help your child’s confidence and self-esteem.
Art therapy and Sensory Processing Disorder
Sensory Processing Disorder (SPD) is a pervasive problem in autism. Strange textures, bright lights, and loud chewing may not be a big deal to most, but for people with autism it can be highly irritating or even intolerable. When overstimulated, autistic people may become distraught, distant, or may simply shut down in order to zone out the stimulus. A key goal in art therapy is to increase the tolerance for such stimuli. Repeatedly confronting stimuli can help desensitize kids with autism to them, making them more tolerable. The best way to do so is in a fun and enjoyable environment, like in an art room. Slimy paint and smelly clay may be less unpleasant in the context of an exciting art project. It is also common for people on the spectrum to engage in self-stimulating behaviors, also known as stimming. An example of stimming would be endlessly twisting tiny strips of paper. These atypical sensory-based behaviors. tend to soothe people with ASD, but unfortunately these same behaviors can isolate them socially and distract them from important activities (homework for example). Art therapy attempts to channel these self-stimulating behaviors into more creative, productive, and socially acceptable activities.
Did you enjoy reading this article? Has it inspired you or your child to explore the world of visual art? RUSART provides art classes for children and adults, and so much more! This article was written by Babysits Canada, for more useful tips for parents you can click here, and for some inspiring creative projects you can click here.