Art Therapy + Autism – Research


  • What is autism and how is it treated? Autism is a neurological condition present at birth, whose precise cause is as yet unknown.
  • symptoms of autism include repetitive or compulsive behaviours, social impairment, problems with communication and trouble processing sensory information
  • most popular treatment is behaviour modification therapy, which aims at shaping behaviours through a system of rewards and consequences.
  • “art therapy promotes mental and emotional growth through art making”
  • Art therapy conducted with aim of life skills, addressing deficits, problematic behaviours and self expression.
  • the goal of art therapy isn’t to produce good looking art

Art presents alternative to verbal communication

  • natural fit for autism – impaired communication
  • “Art offers a way for people who have trouble “speaking their mind” with words to express themselves directly, without words.”
  • often highly visual thinkers
  • “think in pictures”
  •  natural for such people and can be a welcome relief from the daily struggle to use words

Art therapy can help with social skills

  • struggle with social issues, such as interpreting tone of voice and facial expression, and may feel uncomfortable relating to others
  •  One-on-one interactions, such as conversations, are often extremely intimidating and stressful.
  •  “working alongside a therapist can be more comfortable. As the two share focus on the client’s art-making, a powerful bond can be forged without the need for direct face-to-face interaction.
  • Art can also be a wonderful facilitator in forming connections with peers.

“Art therapy is a unique form of treatment for autism, as it helps mitigate symptom, while also channeling autistic behaviors into an expressive, creative outlet. It promotes communication, emotional growth and sensory integration while also fostering social interaction in a fun setting. ”

Kate Lacour 2017. THE VALUE OF ART THERAPY FOR THOSE ON THE AUTISM SPECTRUM. [ONLINE] Available at: [Accessed 31 March 2017]


  •  Kids with ASD may require very specialised teaching methods for sensory issues, difficulties in focusing on things that don’t interest them and communication problems as well as attention deficiency
  • a little patience, understanding, and creativity when it comes to education can work wonders. The use of art as a teaching tool can have unparalleled effects in opening up an avenue of communication between student and teacher, and in engaging the interest of the pupil.

Physical and emotional benefits

  • some may struggle with fine motor skills “simple act of guiding crayons over paper can render a huge improvement”
  • making drawings allows autistic children to communicate thoughts and feelings they may otherwise struggle to express.
  • can provide the teacher with a greater understanding of the child, which is of enormous benefit when it comes to teaching them.

Adaption and control

  • struggle in conventional classrooms because the methods utilized do not suit their own particular way of doing things
  • . Art gives them a degree of control over their learning experience which many greatly appreciate
  • A child asked to draw their own map, and make it as accurate as possible, immediately has much more control over their learning experience, more likely to become engaged in the task, actively seeking out the information they need on their own terms

Defining boundaries

  • Visual aids are often very useful for those teaching autistic children.
  •  recommend the use of visual aids to help clarify concepts which may be confusing for someone with ASD.
  • less likely than other children to accept the word of their teacher when the reasoning behind an action or concept seems incomprehensible.
  • Visual aids help to illustrate these concepts

Learning through personal expression

  • Creative methods of teaching can thus provide an unparalleled way of communicating and engaging with autistic pupil

Claire Draycot 2013. THE VALUE OF ART THERAPY FOR THOSE ON THE AUTISM SPECTRUM. [ONLINE] Available at: 31 March 2017]

Websites I looked at but did not make notes on:















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