Art Therapy and Autism: Utilizing Art and a Developmental Approach to Help Regulate, Engage, and Communicate

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Shteinfeld, Tanya
Master of Arts in Art Therapy
Children diagnosed with autism present with significant impairments in abilities to relate and communicate. Autism diagnoses often accompany additional deficits in language, sensory modulation, motor and cognitive abilities. Art making increases self-awareness, which is a cornerstone for relating. The non-verbal nature of the medium encourages children to represent experiences, which can facilitate symbolic thinking. While art interventions with children with ASD proved efficacious, to date there is limited research about art therapy using a developmental treatment model. This single-subject pilot case study explored the efficacy of art therapy when implemented using a Developmental, Individual-Difference, Relationship-Based (DIR) approach. A Functional Emotional Assessment Scale (FEAS) was administered pre- and post- art interventions to measure the child’s possible improvements. Video recordings of the sessions were also used to assess progress. The results indicated an increase in the participant’s ability to remain regulated, engage and purposefully communicate. Further research was recommended.