Autism, or autism spectrum disorder, refers to a range of conditions characterized by challenges with social skills, repetitive behaviors, speech and nonverbal communication, as well as by unique strengths and differences. There are many types of autism, caused by different combinations of genetic and environmental influences, and the symptoms and their severity vary widely. Even though autism is usually a life-long condition, children and adults alike benefit from art-related therapies. They can reduce symptoms and increase skills and abilities. Many individuals and organizations are using art to help people with autism. In this article I highlight three.
The Art of Autism
The Art of Autism http://the-art-of-autism.com started by Debra Muzikar, an author, storyteller, and curator, is “about shifting perceptions and creating futures in the arts for those on the autism spectrum by creating collaborations and a support network for creatives on the spectrum.” There is an online gallery and blog on the website.
As stated on the site as its definition of autism, “Autism is not a disease. It is a life-long condition. About 1/3 of people on the autism spectrum are non-speaking. Autism effects more than 1 percent of the population. An estimated 70 million people on the planet are on the autism spectrum. There are many models about disability. The Art of Autism prefers the human rights model and the social model over the medical model.”
Art Without Boundaries Association
Art Without Boundaries www.artwithoutboundaries.org is a professional association with the mission to improve the quality of life for individuals with Autism, Alzheimer’s disease and other related disorders of the brain by promoting MnemeTherapy®. It trains artists to become certified as Mnemetecnic therapists.
“MnemeTherapy® uses everyday pleasures such as singing, movement, painting and story telling in a unique combination to stimulate dramatic changes in the brain. Although our goal is to provide a rewarding experience, documented testimonies show significant improvement in some clients in verbal skills, mobility, combativeness, spatial acuity, understanding instructions plus much more!”
Pure Vision Arts (PVA)
Pure Vision Arts purevisionarts.org is Manhattan’s first specialized art studio and exhibition space for artists with autism and other developmental disabilities. It provides studio space, art materials, exhibition opportunities, and career development for artists of all levels, and much more. It was founded in 2002 by The Shield Institute, a not-for-profit human-service agency that educates and supports New Yorkers with autism and other developmental disabilities.
“We recognize the importance of art programs that allow for the artists to immerse themselves in the creative process, thereby reinforcing a positive sense of self… PVAviews making art as a viable vocation for artists with disabilities and all of the artists who attend are self-taught. Some have developed their unique style independently in either group residences, institutions, or at home with little or no support.”
Looking For More Organizations That Use Art to Help Others?
Visit the Art and Healing Organizations and Programs on this blog to find many more nonprofit organizations around the world that use art as a modality of healing.