Art Therapy and Autism Spectrum Disorder
As a parent of children with Autism/Asperger’s (ASD), you may be overwhelmed. You will be helped to debrief and reorganize your life based on your child’s needs, your family’s and yours. I will coordinate with all people helping children, teachers, doctors, ABA therapist, speech therapist and Autism Support Groups to bring a best result to your child. If your child just received a diagnosis, I will help you to communicate with school becoming a part of individualized Education Plan (IEP) team.
After completing the certification graduate course, “Theory and Practice in Autism” at University of Washington in 2014, I continued researching on Autism and Art and published a book, “Autism, Art and Art Therapy” from Amazon.
Art Therapy may help your child to find a joy in creating and proud feeling instead of focusing on what he/she cannot. As we all know that each child with ASD is unique and responds to different treatment approaches. There is no stereotype treatment that can be used for every person with an ASD diagnosis. If your child likes art and can express his/her thoughts visually, Art Therapy could be beneficial . Art Therapy can be a natural therapy for children with autism, including high functioning autistic children, as well as Asperger.
The following are goals that we can work on during Art Therapy sessions.
- Sensory Regulation and Integration
- Emotional and Self Expression
- Imagination/Abstract Thinking
- Social Skill Development through Groups
- Leisure/Recreation Skills and Self Esteem Issues
First grader, Johnny was screaming in his classroom. He did not want to stop working on his computer project. He was not able to calm down and was sent to the office. He kept crying for a long time until his mom came to pick him up from the school. He was an unidentified child with Asperger’s. While I was referring him to receive an appropriate assessment and treatment plan, we started individual art therapy sessions. In art therapy, he was able to draw about when he was upset and talk about why. We made a visual problem solving chart together and began using the chart in his classroom.. His transition difficulties were minimized.
4 year old Ben was non verbal. He liked playing alone in his classroom. He only played with puzzles. In art therapy, he loved drawing his family members. He enjoyed creating, began smiling at me whenever I arrived to see him. Art therapy gave him a joy and pride when he was not able to express himself verbally.
Tommy moved around and usually was not able to pay attention . With sensory media such as tempera paint, finger paint and clay, he was able to focus, calm himself down and complete his projects. He was proud of himself and his art works.
Ann made a feeling social story book about anger management with her original art work. She loved reading her book and practicing the lessons from her book.
There are a lot more stories to tell and make with you!
Early Intervention is a MUST
More and more children have been diagnosed with Autism Spectrum Disorders (ASD) in recent years. Despite many professionals’ efforts, the cause of autism is complex and we still do not have a cure or means of preventing ASD in children. At this time, what we do know is that early intervention is a must. I believe it is very important for children with ASD to get an early diagnosis and intervention while their brains are actively developing and changing.
When I worked as a mental health counselor to develop social skills in preschool and kindergarten children, I met many families with developmental concerns regarding their children. One aspect of my job was to find the right support for the family and children, so the children can thrive and reach their highest possible potential. I saw many positive changes in children with ASD in my social skills preschool and kindergarten group and discovered how early intervention benefits all children, especially those with ASD.
Who can make an appropriate diagnosis? There are pediatricians with little knowledge of ASD who may dismiss the parents’ concerns very easily. Some psychiatrists give ASD diagnosis too easily after seeing a child briefly. I think it is best if your child is seen by several specialists to get an appropriate assessment. A medical doctor (often psychiatrist or neurologist), a speech therapist, an occupational therapist and a psychologist are the team members I would recommend for assessing a child. The following are facilities that provide comprehensive assessment and treatment in the Puget Sound area:
- Children’s Autism Center
4909 25th Ave. NE, Seattle, WA 98106
- UW Autism Center
Center on Human Development and Disability
Box357920, University of Washington Seattle, WA 98195
- Autism Center Tacoma Satellite
Cherry Parkes Building, 1900 Commerce Street
Box 358455, University of Washington Tacoma, WA 98402