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.
Drama Therapy entails the use of drama and other techniques involving performance arts to augment the psychological well-being of individuals. The myriad techniques made use of in the therapeutic space revolve around story-telling, role play, enactment and mime, as well as covering voice production and the use of artifacts as props. The aim in the therapeutic space can be approached in a group or an individual setting.
Dance / movement Therapy entails reinforcing the mind-body approach. It helps children with autism by enhancing the awareness of mind and body that is often misplaced in these children thereby augmenting the inner accord.
Music Therapy uses music to address physical, emotional, cognitive, social needs of children with autism. Music therapy meets the needs of children and adults with disabilities or illnesses. The sensory stimulation and playful nature of music can help to develop a child’s ability to express emotions, communicate and develop rhythmic movement. There is also evidence to show that speech and language skills can be improved through the stimulation of both hemispheres of the brain. Children with autism also experience improved self-esteem.