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Art Therapy and Intellectual Disability
Transcript of Art Therapy and Intellectual Disability
How art therapy is used depends upon the client's
, and, of course, their
goal in therapy.
Art-based interventions are as diverse as each client's journey.
In addition to helping reach mental health goals, clients benefit from the
that comes with the feeling of having created something.
What is Art Therapy?
Art therapy is a type of
in which clients use
, and resulting artwork to
explore their feelings
, and learn
skills, and more.
Art Therapy& Intellectual Disability
Disability and Psychotherapy
1 in 4
people in the U.S. have a
diagnosed mental health problem
, and that risk
for those with intellectual and developmental disabilities.
People seek Therapy for a variety of reasons
Therapy can also help with social skills, emotional control, problem-solving, behavior problems, self-esteem, and more.
Therapy is all about improving an individual's quality of life. Because improving quality of life for people with disabilities is such a concern in our society, the field of psychotherapy must be able to provide diverse options for treatment that are sensitive to the individual needs of persons with disabilities.
Individuals with developmental or intellectual disabilities may have deficits in intellectual or emotional functioning, have limited verbal abilities, have issues trusting and confiding in a therapist, or any variety of other difficulties.
Because of these roadblocks, people often question the benefits of therapy for these groups.
As a result, people with disabilities may be excluded getting the help they need and deserve.
Individuals who have difficulty in traditional therapy may benefit from the addition of a non-traditional approach.
Art therapy can be verbal and non-verbal, and is gentle, direct, and nonthreatening.
Art therapy interventions are client-based.
This was made by a 6 year old boy with global developmental delays.
The project helped him practice
. He was able to discuss his favorite color being blue!
Donna Williams is an adult artist with autism. This piece, called "The Outsider" expresses the artist's feelings about
joining in from the periphery
. In an interview, she described how art entered her life:
"I was deeply mesmerized with all things aesthetic and sensory from at least 6 months of age. Being meaning deaf, I saw musically. Being face blind, I was attuned to movement patterns. Being object blind and context blind, I'd tap everything to make noise, hear its "voice," flick it to feel its movement, turn it to experience how it caught light, toss and drop and shred and snap and sprinkle grass, sand, twigs, leaves. I'd lick and run my hands and my face over surfaces, wrap myself into fabrics. I'd align myself with symmetry and lines, mold myself into forms to feel their shape as them, stare at colors and lights and shapes trying to become one with them."
This piece is part of a series by a man with down syndrome. He believes that the mandala is a universal
symbol of self.
Art therapy aims to empower individuals living with disabilities.
It teaches creativity and problem solving, and
shows people how much they can accomplish with the skills they possess.
Acquiring new skills through art therapy often feels closer to
The purpose of art therapy is not to eliminate limitations. The purpose is to
find strengths and tools to make those limitations matter less in over-all quality of life.
These "super-hero wrist-bands" are made out of empty toilet paper rolls and decorated with basic craft supplies. An art therapist would use this activity to facilitate a conversation about finding "Your superpower," or the strengths that help you cope.
Decorating the wrist bands around the theme of their own superpower helps kids internalize that strength and feel empowered.
art is for everyone.
In the following video, engineers partner with art therapists to create a rotating easel that enables clients to paint from their wheelchairs.
This is a fantastic example of what art therapy should strive for when working with clients living with a disability. The use of
creative problem solving
bring the most out of clients' existing abilities
helps clients feel self-sufficient.
put energy into their abilities
work towards goals
of personal development, physical development, emotional well-being, self-determination, interpersonal relationship skills, and more.
While art therapy does not have such far-reaching effects as to change these circumstances, it can have large effects on the
lives of individuals
living under those circumstances.
Many of the problems that people with disabilities face in their lives are products of
quality of life
for people with disabilities is one of the most
things we should be doing as a society. Art therapy is one profession among many that seek to support individuals with disabilities in helping them find their own way in life.
Autism gave Donna Williams a unique way of experiencing the world around her. The art she makes shows
how much beauty her mind has to offer.
A. (n.d.). Untitled [Photograph found in Mandala Collection]. Retrieved May 1, 2014, from http://
Child's Play. (2012, November). Retrieved May 1, 2014, from http://www.arttherapyblog.com/c/art-
therapy-activities/#.U20sq_ldWSq (Originally photographed 2012, November)
Quiroga, D. (2011, November 9). Untitled. Retrieved May 1, 2014, from http://
www.lovethatmax.com/2011/11/art-ideas-for-kids-with-special-needs.html (Originally photographed 2011, November)
Wallace, K., M. Ed. BCATR. (2011, July 25). A group mandala showing how people saw
themselves in the group. Retrieved May 1, 2014, from http://arttherapyreflections.blogspot.com/2011_07_01_archive.html (Originally photographed 2011, July)
Williams, D. (n.d.). The Outsider [Painting found in Dreamscapes]. Retrieved May 1, 2014, from
Art Therapy: Easel For People Living With Disability [Video]. (2013, April). Retrieved May, 2014,
Emory, M. J. (2004). Art Therapy as an Intervention for Autism. Art Therapy: Journal of the
American Art Therapy Association, 21(3), 143-147. Retrieved May 1, 2014, from http://files.eric.ed.gov/fulltext/EJ682598.pdf
AATA About Us. (2014). Retrieved from http://www.arttherapy.org/aata-aboutus.html
Kuster, J. M. (2007, August 14). Communicating Through Art. Retrieved May 3, 2012, from http://
Trzaska, J. D. (2012). The use of a group mural project to increase self-esteem in high-
functioning, cognitively disabled adults. [Abstract]. Arts in Psychotherapy, 39(5), 436-422. doi: 10.1016/j.aip.2012.06.003