Art Therapy for Autism

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Patrick Rees and Manuel Perez love art. An added benefit? It helps them work around challenges surrounding Autism.

“I’m not pretending to be someone I’m not,” Reese says. “I create things how I feel.”

Their art therapist, Maia Wheeler, says art can help students manage some of the social and communication challenges often linked with the disorder. While she says there are many benefits to art therapy, Maia feels these three are the most important:

  1. Independence: Students are able to make choices surrounding color and materials. “Mastering different materials … assist in their mastery of independent skills that hopefully translate,” she says.
  2. Communication: For students unable to express themselves through words, art provides a valuable outlet for conveying emotions, feelings and opinions.
  3. Socialization: Because students share their work, they in turn share their experiences. “It provides a great space to practice some of those really challenging nuances of working with people,” Wheeler says.

Perez, too, says he’s gained a lot through his experiences in art therapy.

“It lets go of everything I have inside,” he says. “I feel like I’m a different person because I’m a part of art, I’m part of something.”

Since learning to express himself through art, Perez says he doesn’t get as frustrated or talk back as often and as a result, he isn’t getting in trouble at school.

“Art therapy can be a space to work through some of those issues and challenges and how they relate to life,” Wheeler says.

For more information on art therapy or the Easter Seals Therapeutic School and Center for Autism Research, please visit their website.


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