The benefits of creative expression for children on the spectrum
Historically, art therapy has been a highly successful component of psychotherapy for all age groups and backgrounds. Producing artistic pieces often evokes feelings of calmness and serenity as it plays an integral role in treating Sensory Processing Disorder (SPD) and various challenges associated with Autism Spectrum Disorder (ASD).
The CDC reports that approximately 1 in 54 children in the United States are diagnosed with autism. Art therapy is a form of early intervention that demonstrates significant benefits for those affected by ASD by encouraging individuals to freely express their thoughts and emotions. Much of their world is very structured, which is essential for safety and success, but within safe boundaries they can experience a bit more freedom during art therapy sessions. Some of the most common benefits we’ve seen with our own LEAP keiki at the clinic are:
1 Improved Communication Skills
For many children, art therapy and creative activities unlock a world of imagination and more importantly provides a free-flowing form of expression. Therapists do not necessarily use the art as a diagnostic tool but instead as a medium to tackle emotional issues for children and individuals that otherwise struggle with expressing themselves verbally. During these sessions, it’s important for the child to feel unrestricted in the creative process.
2 Boosted Confidence and Self-esteem
Immersing themselves in the creative process reinforces a positive sense of self. The basis of art therapy is acceptance and inclusivity, so your child can be exactly who they are when they come to a session. On canvas, children no longer feel confined by social norms as they create an image reflective of their own perceptions. Creativity can also represent a gateway to resourcefulness, an important trait for independent adolescents and adults!
3 Social Skills Development, Especially Cooperation and Collaboration
In this safe space, we often find that keiki are more likely to respond positively to one-on-one support from their therapist or skills trainer. In addition to the sense of pride, a child feels after completing their artwork, experiencing enjoyment in the context of a relationship helps build their confidence and self-esteem!
Since many autistic children have an eye for detail and a tendency to think outside-of-the-box, they can produce some incredibly imaginative art! Take advantage of some of the benefits of art therapy at home by simply incorporating creative sessions into your daily routine with coloring books, chalk, free drawing and painting sessions. By following along with a free class or tutorial on Youtube, you can enjoy a little guidance and structure while engaging and creating art with your child. It’s a terrific way to bond by having fun together while reducing stress through creative expression!