Children with Autism Spectrum Disorder (ASD) carry some characteristics and two of them are usually noticed and co-occurring:
- difficulties in social communication and social interaction;
- restricted, repetitive patterns of behaviour, interests or activities.
In my experiences so far when I work with autistic children, there are at least four benefits that art therapy can help them relax and achieve more joy.
We use creative expression to communicate in art therapy, and children love it!
1. Verbal Communication is NOT Necessary
Children with ASD are often visually oriented and may have limited vocabulary to express themselves. Nonverbal children with ASD tend to show high interests in choosing colours. When they find difficulty in social interaction, or using verbal communication, they can fully rely on art-making to achieve possible calming effects because visual expression is easier to understand. We use creative expression to communicate in art therapy, and children love it!
2. A Safe Space with NO Judgement
In general, most of us go to see a counsellor have some resistance at the beginning due to lack of trust. Not to mention to children with special needs, they may be more fearful to enter a room where they are not familiar with. Introducing art activities can lower their defences, help them feel safe and relaxed, and eventually become more comfortable and cooperative in the counselling sessions.
3. Children’s Imagination is Encouraged
Art therapy improves children’s imagination because it does not require any rules to follow. True creativity requires someone to break the rules. Children get scared when they make a mess, but in art therapy, children are encouraged to generate chaos and experience sensory process. Being creative does not ask them to use any of their cognitive abilities, so they can fully focus on their abilities instead of disabilities. They feel proud of themselves with this sense of achievement.
4. Sense of Control and Order
Art therapy enhances emotional and sensory regulation. Children are allowed in art therapy to make chaos, but they can also gain their autonomy and sense of control. When they gain insight about their capabilities and tendencies, it is easier to adjust their behaviours such as meltdowns. They feel accepted in art therapy so that there are more opportunities created for their desires to connect with others.