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Using Visual Arts to Encourage Children with Autism Spectrum Disorder to Communicate Their Feelings and Emotions

DOI: 10.4236/jss.2017.510009, PP. 90-108

Keywords: Autism Spectrum Disorder, Visual Arts, Children, Communication, Feelings, Emotions

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Children with Autism Spectrum Disorder (ASD) often experience difficulties in identifying their emotions and the emotional states of others, additionally, they also often experience challenges in verbal communication. Together, these characteristics can lead to compromised social and emotional well being and mental health issues. However, children with ASD often have relative strengths in visual processing, and such strengths have been integral to the success of visual supports and video-based interventions for a range of socially significant skills for children with ASD. This preference for visual processing may also rep-resent opportunities for children with ASD in identifying and expressing their emotions. There is a limited but promising body of literature that suggests visual Art therapy can be beneficial for individuals with ASD and provide opportuni-ties for them to develop flexibility, self-esteem, and social communicative behaviour [1]. This presentation reports a study exploring the potential of Art making to assist children with ASD to better communicate their feelings and emotions. Providing an outlet for self-expression may reduce the challenges people with Autism face and in doing so, improve the quality of life for them as well as their families. A qualitative descriptive case study was chosen for this study within the theoretical framework of Art as therapy. Two boys, aged seven and ten years, participated in five and six visual Art as therapy sessions (re-spectively). The sessions developed participants’ skills in Art making and ex-pressing emotion as rapport was built over the study period. A variety of rich data were collected during the study which included: questionnaires, interviews, video-recordings, observation notes and participant Art works. This presentation showcases the Art works of the participating boys, featuring a variety of mediums to communicate their thoughts, feelings, and emotions. A description of the visual Art as therapy experiences and the impacts upon students’ communication, social interaction, and self-esteem are discussed.


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