Art Therapy and Autsim

Autism is the fastest growing developmental disability in the United States. It affects one in eighty eight children. The term “autism” references “autism spectrum disorders” or ASD.

These disorders affect the brain development of a person starting in early childhood (“Facts about Autism”).While ASD is the fastest growing developmental disability, there is no cure for it; however, there is research being done on how to cure autism. Various treatment options are available to help people with autism. The main goal behind the treatment options is to help the developmental and social delays that can accompany autism. Early intervention is the most effective way to treat autism. This can tackle the developmental and social delays before they interfere too much with the child’s life.

We Will Write a Custom Case Study Specifically
For You For Only $13.90/page!

order now

Often autism is treated through therapies that address the child’s specific needs. Some of the more prevalent treatment options are speech therapy, play therapy, occupational therapy, and sometimes medication. Art therapy, a less common treatment option, is just as effective and can benefit a person with autism by providing coping skills and sensory stimulation. It also builds social skills and fine motor skills. Art therapy is most efficient when used as an early intervention treatment, as are other treatment options.

The goal behind art therapy is to promote self-expression and growth. By using art therapy as an early intervention tool, children with autism can receive sensory stimulation, skills to communicate, and develop fine motor skills. Autism refers to a complex range of disorders that “are characterized, in varying degrees, by difficulties in social interaction, verbal and nonverbal communication and repetitive behaviors.” (“What Is Autism?”). These disorders fall under the umbrella term Autism Spectrum Disorders (ASD). The spectrum contains five disorders: Pervasive Developmental Disorder-Not Otherwise Specified (PDD-NOS), Rett’s Disorder, Autism, Childhood Disintegrative Disorder, and Asperger’s (“Autism Spectrum Disorder”).

Children with autism all have difficulties in social interactions and communication; however, depending on the disorder, there can be variation in the symptoms present. Pervasive Developmental Disorders is a mild form of autism and “a child with PDD-NOS does not meet the criteria for any other specific PDD/ASD.” (Boyse). This means that the child does not have all symptoms or as severe symptoms that are prevalent in other autism disorders. Rett Syndrome “is a rare, severe, “girls only” form of autism. It’s usually discovered in the first two years of life” (“Autism Spectrum Disorders Health”).

“Autistic disorder (sometimes called autism or classical ASD) is the most common condition” (“NINDS Autism Information Page”) and people who are diagnosed with this show the more known symptoms, meaning that they have trouble with social skills, communication skills and grasping abstract ideas, and they show repetitive behaviors. A person with Asperger Syndrome has “normal intelligence and language development, but also some autistic-like traits” (Boyse). Some of these autistic-like behaviors are trouble understanding social cues and needing a structured routine. A person on the ASD will be diagnosed with having one of those disorders. The treatment option will be different for every person with autism because there are multiple types of autism and each comes with its own set of symptoms that need treatment. With autism becoming more prevalent and being the “fastest-growing serious developmental disability in the U.

S.,” (“Facts about Autism”) it is important to find the most effective ways to treat the symptoms associated with it. There is currently no cure, and there is no known cause, but there are many early intervention programs that are effective at treating the symptoms. There is no miracle combination of treatments that work for every person with autism because the severity of ASD varies, and one person may respond well to one combination of treatments while another person could respond poorly to the same treatment. This is often the case because people with autism can also have an intellectual or developmental disability (IDD). If there is an IDD present, the person will need to focus on a different set of skills than if there were no IDD present.

The one method that is effective for treating all autism disorders is early intervention treatments. According to the National Institute of Mental Health an effective early intervention program “starts as soon as the child is diagnosed with autism”. Early interventions should focus on the skills that are lacking in normal development. This will focus on language development, social skills, abstract ideas such as pretend play, and any other developmental marks that the child is lacking in (“Autism Spectrum Disorder”). Keeping a structured routine is also important for a child with autism.

When the routine is off, the child may become overwhelmed and some of their symptoms may become more prominent. To keep the child “from becoming overwhelmed because of a schedule change they try to prepare the [child] by informing them ahead of time about when a change in schedule is going to occur” (Young). In more severe cases of autism there can be severe temper tantrums, self-harm may occur as a way to cope with stressors, and there can be other behaviors that are harmful to the child or those around him/her. In these situations medications can be used to treat the symptoms associated with autism, but it does not treat autism itself. Some of the symptoms that can be treated with medication can be severe temper tantrums, high energy levels, and self-harming tendencies (“Autism Spectrum Disorders (ASDs)”).

Art therapy is an effective treatment option for most of the symptoms associated with autism. Art therapy is the “therapeutic use of art making within a professional relationship, by people who experience illness, trauma or challenges in living and by people who seek personal development” (“Integrative Therapies”). Session can take place in a variety of settings from hospitals to schools and private practices. Art therapy should promote the health and wellbeing of an individual. To do so the environment in which art therapy takes place also needs to promote this.

The environment in which a person feels this will vary which is why art therapy can take place in numerous settings. According to an interview with Gail Fitz, a retired art therapist, the space in which it takes place should be considered sacred. It is a safe place for the clients to express themselves. In Art therapy there are a variety of materials that are used, each serving a purpose. The materials go from structured to unstructured; structured materials being simple to use and not too stimulating; whereas, an unstructured material is more complex and stimulating. Structured materials are materials like pencils and crayons and unstructured materials are materials like paint and clay.

Materials used vary from client to client and are based on their needs and capabilities during that session. Clients who need sensory stimulation would use more unstructured materials because they provide needed stimulation; whereas clients who tend to be over stimulated use the more simple structured materials. People with autism can be hypo or hyper sensitive to stimuli. Hyper sensitive is when they are over-stimulated, hypo sensitive is when they are under-stimulated (“The Sensory World of Autism”). The hands on nature of art therapy tends to be beneficial for people with autism because it can focus on the difficulties of sensory input (Ullman 18). Verbal communication is another area that tends to need work.

Art therapy allows a person to express him/herself in a nonverbal manner. Children with autism struggle with communication and “the visible language spoken in art therapy offers individuals with autism regular opportunities for meaningful play, social interaction, and expression of the self.” (Goucher 304). During an interview with Gail Fitz, she mentioned that drawing really only happens for part of a session and that the rest of the session is spent assessing and discussing the art work. This promotes the client to think about his/her feelings and try to express them verbally. With communication skills’ lacking this helps to build those skills (Gail).

Along with communication skills lacking, social skills often need to be worked on. Group therapy provides an opportunity for these skills to build because it promotes social interactions amongst the participating members (Fitz). This occurs in a safe environment that allows for the skill building to occur. Fine motor skills can be a challenge for some children with autism, and through the use of tool adaptation these skills can be built upon in art therapy. Fine motor skills are used for tasks such as writing and other small movement activities.

The size of the tool being used will determine the amount of fine motor skills needed for the task. Similar to the adaptations made in occupational therapy, the bases of the brushes and other drawing materials can be widened to allow a child to hold on to the tool, and as the child progresses and builds his/her fine motor skills the width of the bases can decrease allowing for fine motor skill growth (Lokitis). The larger the tool, the easier it is to use. Through the creation of art the client can both express him/herself to build these skills. A person with autism has a variety of treatment options available to his/her. Many focus on one skill.

Speech therapy provides the child with strategies to build verbal and social skills (Miller). It is essential that this skill is worked on and through the use of speech therapy it can improved. Art therapy can help to elicit speech from a client and through group therapy it can build social skills. For building social skills play therapy is often used; “play therapy is a structured, theoretically based approach to therapy that builds on the normal communicative and learning processes of children” (Lilly, O’Connor, and Krull). Art therapy can help build the social skills, but it does not teach imaginative play with other children or other interactions along those lines. Other forms of treatment for autism include occupational therapy.

Occupational therapy and art therapy are similar in their development of fine motor skills. For a person who has an ASD, “occupational therapy services are defined according to the person’s needs and desired goals and priorities for participation” (The American Occupational Therapy Association 1). This is beneficial because the goal in occupational therapy is to allow a person to fully participate in his/her daily activities. There are copious amounts of treatment options for autism, and they all focus on different skills. Art therapies main focus is on communication skills through nonverbal means of communication.

It can also build other skills such as fine motor skills and social skills, in the process, but it will not replace other therapies that may focus on one of those skills in a more direct manner. The caretakers of a child with autism will need to base the treatment plan off of the child’s needs. Art therapy is an option that may be suitable for one child but not another. People with ASD often have speech delays, social delays, and developmental delays. Those can all be treated through the use of art therapy. Due to speech and developmental delays, children with autism often struggle when it comes to expressing themselves.

Art therapy provides the skills needed to do so. A person with autism often needs the sensory stimulation that art therapy can provide, whether it is through touch, sight, or sound. An art therapist is able to promote speech skill improvement through their interactions. The art therapist may promote conversation by asking the child to tell him/her about what he/she is making and trying to fully engage them in the activity. Fine motor skills are improved in art therapy through the use of different tools.

Holding a pencil, paint brush, using scissors, etc., promotes fine motor skill growth which is often a skill that needs to be the focus for a child with autism. Art therapy may not be the right treatment for all children with autism; however, knowing that it is an option is beneficial when trying to find the appropriate treatment. Autism is becoming more prevalent in our society, and finding all of the treatment options will allow parents, caretakers, teachers, and those with autism to determine the best course of action to develop any skills needing work. Works Cited The American Occupational Therapy Association.

“Occupational Therapy’s Role with Autism.” N.d. PDF file. ‘Art Therapy’ from Real Look Autism. Autism Speaks.

Autism Speaks, 29 Apr. 2013. Web. 30 Oct. 2013.

. Autism Society of America, and American Art Therapy Associatation. “© 2013 Art Therapy & Autism Spectrum Disorder Integrating Creative Interventions.” File last modified on 2013.

PDF file. “Autism Spectrum Disorder.” National Institute of Mental Health. National Institutes of Health, n.d.

Web. 19 Feb. 2014. . “Autism Spectrum Disorders (ASDs).

” Center for Disease Control and Prevention., n.d. Web. 19 Feb.

2014. . “Facts about Autism.

” Autism Speaks. Autism Speaks, n.d. Web. 12 Nov.

2013. Boyse, Kyla. “Autism, Autistic Spectrum Disorders (ASD) and Pervasive Developmental Disorders (PDD).” University of Michigan Health System. Association of Academic Health Centers, n.

d. Web. 20 Feb. 2014.>. .

“Childhood Disintegrative Disorder.” MedlinePlus. A.D.A.M.

, n.d. Web. 20 Feb. 2014.>. Furniss, Gillian J. “Teaching Art to Children with Autism.

” School Arts May-June 2006: n. pag. Web. 9 Oct. 2013.>. Fitz, Gail. Personal interview. 5 Feb.

2014. “Integrative Therapies.” Center for Health and Healing. Center for Health and Healing, 2002. Web. 17 Dec.

2013. . Goucher, Cathy.

“Art Therapy Connecting and Communicating.” Play-Based Interventions for Children and Adolescents with Autism Spectrum Disorders. Ed. Loretta Gallo-Lopez and Lawrence C. Rubin. New York: Routledge, n.

d. 295-315. Print. “Integrative Therapies.” Center for Health and Healing.

Center for Health and Healing, 2002. Web. 17 Dec. 2013. complement/art_history.asp>. Lokitis, Barbara. Personal interview. 14 Jan.

2014. Miller, Gray. “Art Therapy for Autism.” Love to Know Autism. Love to Know, n.

d. Web. 30 Oct. 2013.>. “NINDS Autism Information Page.” NIH. USA.

gov, n.d. Web. 20 Feb. 2014.>. Rain, Ella.

“Motor Skills in Autistic Children.” Love to Know Autism. Love to Know, n.d. Web. 15 Jan.

2014. . “The Sensory World of Autism.” The National Autistic Society.

National Autistic Society, n.d. Web. 18 Sept. 2013.

. Ullman, Pamella.

“‘Art as Therapy’: Sensory Activities for the Child with Autism.” Full Spectrum. Blogger, 9 Jan. 2011. Web. 12 Dec.

2013. .

“What Is Autism?” Autism Speaks. Autism Speaks, n.d. Web. 18 Sept. 2013.

. Young, Jessica. Personal interview. 18 Feb.