Art Therapy & Autism

Love child's painting

Children living with autism spectrum disorder (ASD) face a lifelong struggle with socialization and communication skills. Autism can be defined as a “broad range of conditions characterized by challenges with social skills, repetitive behaviors, speech, and nonverbal communication” according to Autism Speaks.

Art therapist, Dr. Theresa Van Lith, led a group of researchers to conclude that visual communication methods offer autistic children avenues to process their emotions. Art therapy allows children to express their understanding of the world on a pliable medium.

The benefits are seen in:

  • Sensory stimulation

  • Development of interpersonal/social skills

  • Behavior management

  • Relieving stress/anxiety

The American Autism Association specifically correlates increases in self-esteem with children who receive art therapy. At drawchange, no matter what the child’s circumstance, this self-esteem boost is an essential element of our programs. A cornerstone of these benefits is the structure of our therapeutic sessions. The specific design of our curriculum allows for the children to lead the narrative and emphasize their emotions. Our sessions begin with a calming breathing exercise and an inspiring imagination session, designed to shift the mind into a creative headspace. This step is important for individuals with ASD as symptoms lead to sensory overload and hinder clear communication. We follow these exercises with activities built upon developing social and communication skills. Our approach focuses on enriching the lives of individuals whose environment has stymied their opportunity for creative expression and anxiety relief.

The purpose of drawchange’s curriculum is to help the child recognize their feelings and cope constructively. The open-ended nature of art is a universal invitation for every child to explore. In the face of challenges, whether it be homelessness or autism, art provides an opportunity for children to share their feelings and relate to the world around them. We highly recommend children with autism to participate in our Do-It-Your-Self programs with their caretakers. They are able to do this in the comfort and familiarity of their own homes to effectively reduce anxiety-related symptoms.

Learn more about our drawchange DIY program here.