Description: Refers to the application of art with the intent to enhance functioning. Proponents believe that art therapy creates visual images that may represent thoughts and feelings and can be used to help individuals express thoughts and feelings that may be too difficult to express verbally. The art therapist uses a variety of materials, such as clay or paint, when working with their clients. Art based activities may also be highly preferred for an individual with autism (e.g., finger painting, coloring, drawing, arts and crafts). Access to such activities may be used as a reward; this is different from art therapy, in which the art activities themselves are viewed as therapeutic.
Research Summary: There have been no scientific studies of art therapy for individuals with autism spectrum disorders.
Recommendations: Researchers may wish to conduct studies with strong scientific designs to evaluate art therapy. Professionals should present art therapy as untested and encourage families who are considering this intervention to evaluate it carefully.