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We are an Army family! Miles was diagnosed with Autism at the age of 6 and he is now 15 years old. Marley is Miles' Autism Service Dog and his best friend. This dynamic duo has been together for 5 years and look forward to many more adventures! 

For God has not given us a spirit of fearfulness, but one of power, love and sound judgement.  
                                                       2 Timothy 1:7


Art Therapy

For the word of the Lord is right,
and all His work is trustworthy.
He loves righteousness and justice; 
the earth is full of the Lord's unfailing love.
                                  Psalm 33:4-5

Miles has not been able to participate in Art Therapy. Although he does enjoy drawing and I think he would enjoy the therapy. When Miles was in the public school setting art classes were available and he did attend a few sessions. Unfortunately art class was not a structured environment and he would easily get distracted which often got him into trouble. After several reports from the teachers I decided to pull him out of this class and have him attend 1 on 1 instruction for Reading with the Special Education Teacher. 

What Is Art Therapy?
According to the American Art Therapy Association, "art therapy is a mental health profession that uses the creative process of art making to improve and enhance the physical, mental and emotional well-being of individuals of all ages. It is based on the belief that the creative process involved in artistic self-expression helps people to resolve conflicts and problems, develop interpersonal skills, manage behavior, reduce stress, increase self-esteem and self-awareness, and achieve insight." For children and adults with autism, it can be a wonderful way to open to doors to expression.

Why Use Art Therapy to Treat Autism?

One of the hallmarks of autism spectrum disorders is difficulty with verbal and social communication. People with autism have a hard time processing language and turning it into smooth, easy conversation. They may also have a tough time reading faces and body language. As a result, they may have difficulty with telling a joke from a statement, or sarcasm from sincerity.
Meanwhile, many people with autism have an extraordinary ability to think visually - "in pictures." Many can turn that ability to good use in processing memories, recording images and visual information, and expressing ideas through drawing or other artistic media. Art is a form of expression that requires little or no verbal interaction which can open doors to communication. All too often, it's assumed that a person with limited verbal capabilities is incompetent in other areas. As a result, people on the autism spectrum may not be exposed to opportunities to use artistic media -- or the opportunities may be too challenging in other ways (in large class settings, for example). 

Art therapy offers an opportunity for therapists to work one-on-one with individuals on the autism spectrum to build a wide range of skills in a manner which may be more comfortable (and thus more effective) than spoken language.

What Can Art Therapists Do for People with Autism?

In some cases it has opened up a whole world of opportunity to an individual with autism who has significant artistic talent. In other cases it has created a unique opportunity for personal bonding. Other possible outcomes include -
  • Improved ability to imagine and think symbolically
  • Improved ability to recognize and respond to facial expressions
  • Improved ability to manage sensory issues 
  • Improved fine motor skills

How to Find and Select an Art Therapist:
Qualified art therapists hold a masters degree and are certified through the Art Therapy Credentials Board. Not all qualified arts therapists, however, have specific experience working with people on the autism spectrum. When you've located a local therapist, call to find out what experience that individual has had with autism spectrum disorders. While extensive experience may not be critical, it is very important that the therapist you choose understands the specific issues, challenges and strengths associated with autism. 

If anyone has taken Art Therapy please feel free to leave a comment about your child's experience!

This information was located through the American Art Therapy Association and About.com under Autism Spectrum Disorders. 

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