In recent years, caregivers are seeking alternative or complimentary treatments for autism and have a wide array of options available. One such treatment is arts-based therapy. It is a natural fit for autism. It helps assuage the deficits associated with autism by channeling autistic behaviors into an expressive, creative outlet.
Arts-based therapy is an umbrella term comprising of various art forms namely, visual art, dance/movement therapy, music therapy, play therapy and drama therapy. Contingent on the interests and preference of the child, any one or more art forms can be employed to reach the desired goal.
One of the major characteristics of autism spectrum disorders is difficulty with verbal and social communication. However, many individuals with autism have an extraordinary ability to think visually i.e. “in pictures.” Art in general, is a form of expression that could open doors of communication for a child with autism. It also promotes self-exploration, emotional growth and sensory integration while also encouraging social interaction in a fun setting.
Arts-based therapy differs from traditional art-making or performance in that the emphasis is on the process of creating and making rather than on the end product.
Benefits of Arts-based Therapy
- It helps to express feelings that may be difficult to verbalize and thereby increase communication skills and develop the ability to recognize and respond to facial expressions.
- It enables the child to explore their imagination and creativity and help them think symbolically.
- It aids the child in developing healthy coping skills and improves self-esteem and confidence by identifying and tackling emotional issues and concerns.
- It promotes sharing in a safe nurturing environment along with decision making.
- It also improves fine and gross motor skills and physical co-ordination.
- It also improves the tolerance for unpleasant stimuli while channeling self-stimulating behavior into more creative activity and manages sensory issues.
- It works on the cognitive difficulties faced by children with autism.
- When done in a group setting, it helps in developing cooperation, turn-taking, respecting differences, teamwork and a sense of acceptance and other social skills that can all be practiced in an enjoyable, natural setting.
- It also works on enhancing language comprehension, self and social awareness and perceptual skills.
- It can be employed to decrease echolalia (uncontrolled and instant repetition of the words spoken by others).