Art workshops for children with autism 
Arun Mehta
Manasi Dash (Bidirectional Access Promotion Society)
SIS Appadurai Committee Room
Start time:
6 April, 2012 at 8:30 (UTC+0)
Session slots:

Short Abstract:

Most of us associate art with stress reduction and individual interest. But, for children with intellectual challenges, art could be a method to learn social skills, communicate, develop speech, language, integration of senses, locomotor coordination and a way to respectable place in the society.

Long Abstract

Autism Spectrum Disorder, a neurological condition is caused due to short circuiting with the interconnections between different parts of the brain, resulting in impairments in social interaction, communication and imagination. A child with Autism could be anywhere on the spectrum from mild symptoms to a savant. Due to lack of social skills they, however, remain excluded from the society. Art has been found as a way to help them learn, develop cognition and sensory integration, visual perception and get included in the society.

Drama, music, painting, dancing, poetry, figure making etc. are ways which are being used to help children with autism develop social skills, identify and develop their hidden potentials and interests to find a livelihood option, besides a list of emotional and physical benefits.

Research reveals that children with Autism are usually good with computers. Though new in the Indian context, some experts are using technology in innovative ways to help children learn without constant support of a caregiver.

The panel proposes to discuss various forms of art being tried with children with intellectual challenges taking a broad view, and share experiences.

Accepted papers:


Shaloo Sharma (Pallavanjali)

Paper short abstract:

When working with persons with ASD , Art Therapy and its entire process – the art materials, the therapeutic relationship between the student and mediator and the end product, can provide a visual, concrete format which develops abstract thinking skills, expresses creativity, increases flexibility, helps develop social-relationships and provide a novel way or sensory integration therapy.

Paper long abstract:

One of the classic characteristics of Autism- imagination deficits, can be addressed by art therapy. Specific plans and tailor made- art projects targeting the needs of a person with ASD provide a visual and concrete format which that not only develops abstract thinking skills but also provides an enjoyable sensory integration and exploration experiences that help create calm, regulated bodies and then move beyond mere exercises to help an individual incorporate their experiences into a product that helps to continue remediation.

In entire process of art therapy results in a concrete product that is tangible and provides a visual history of therapeutic progress.

The use of visual expression combined with verbal counselling and specific mediation goes a long way when working with people with a communication disability. Being on the spectrum can be mentally, physically, and emotionally stressful and having art as a way of expression can reduce stress.

Important remedial targets like fine motor skills and social/relational skills can be achieved through of art therapy,

Self-direction, industriousness, patience, and pride in one's work are important life skills that require a great deal of teaching can be achieved through art .

Art - particularly drawing is a useful tool for both revealing and addressing visual-spatial deficits such as mental rotation and improving hand-eye coordination.


Arpeata Sharma (English and Foreign Language University)

Paper short abstract:

Audio-visual attracts the child. Repetition helps a child to memorize. Rhythm makes the reading enjoyable. The combination of these three for a young autistic child helps him to learn poetry effectively. Suzuki method is about maximum exposure of a child to the area of learning.

Paper long abstract:

According to Grandin (2002) autistic children are visual thinkers so they require visually appealing materials in order to learn effectively.

The Suzuki method as introduced by Shinichi Suzuki compares language acquisition with music. A child is able to learn any language faster due to its exposure to it. Therefore, Mother tongue is acquired without any formal training. The process of repetition helps the child to master the language as he grows. The same idea was used in teaching music.

What I want to propose in my paper is to use this method to help autistic children to read poems. The idea is to use audio-visual aids, to attract the interest of young or pre-school autistic learners and help them co-relate objects with words. Poems of Indian context can be taught through audio-visual method where the words of the poem are written on the screen. The context makes it more relatable while the rhythm will help the child to remember it faster. The taglines of the advertisements are easier to remember due to its repetition. The combination of these elements will help the child to learn quickly and effectively.

How I will go on in this area is by conducting an experiment, where the teacher will read a poem to the young autistic learners, using the existing methods. I will later play another poem with the requirements stated in the previous paragraph using the audio-visual method and compare the effectiveness of these methods on the learners.


Arun Mehta

Paper short abstract:

Internet telephony lets music instructors offer their services internationally. This is particularly useful for persons with autism, who find it difficult to travel and take time getting accustomed to new locations. This paper discusses the benefits of this approach for them.

Paper long abstract:

Internet telephony, in the form of services such as Skype, have dramatically reduced the costs of international voice communication, while also enabling video. This has made it possible for music instructors to teach students anywhere in the world. Particularly in the less popular forms of music, this has provided a great boost to those seeking to become practitioners, and thus help cultures flourish and spread.

Persons with autism have difficulty in coordinated activity by different parts of the brain, for instance in speaking. Hence, they are often non-verbal. Singing does not use as many muscles, and comes far more naturally to such persons. It helps them reduce stress levels, and provides many health benefits. It brings them social recognition, and offers the possibility of an occupation and employment.

Online instruction saves persons with autism the immense trouble they face in traveling, and lets them learn in an environment they are used to, and hence less distracted by. Even in the absence of a human instructor, there are many useful software tools that can lead singing exercises and provide feedback on the quality of singing.

This paper discusses the efficacy of learning singing thus, and describes an experiment underway to apply this to the needs of children with autism and their caregivers.


Manasi Dash (Bidirectional Access Promotion Society)
Arun Mehta

Paper short abstract:

Children find it harder to learn when multiple senses are involved. For persons with communication or social challenges, this is a bigger problem. One sense at a time approach, focuses on technologies and tools related to one sense at a time to reduce sensory overload.

Paper long abstract:

Children under the age of eight typically use only one sense at a time to judge the world around them. For those with autism, multi-sensory information overload is a bigger issue, as they have deficiencies in the interconnection between different parts of the brain. Teaching arts that employ a single sense has worked well here, as shown by workshops with children at Ashish Center, Dwarka, Delhi. More senses are integrated gradually in this approach, as in cooking and gardening, which helps caregivers identify talent early, and guide the child towards an appropriate career choice.

Different senses were addressed in these, via vision, hearing, tactile, movement, etc. For developing vision, children were encouraged to use cameras, colorful objects, paint materials, etc. Singing, using a combination of online and face to face interaction, and sounds of animals and objects were used to train the ear and help children develop their imagination to build stories. For touch we used clay modeling, for movement we invited artists in contemporary and classical dance.

These workshops also provide skill upgradation for caregivers, encourages them

to think creatively and intuitively. Learning together connects child and caregiver better, which is critical in autism, a communication disability, many of whom are nonverbal, and hence need avenues outside of the verbal to express themselves creatively.


Ramamoorthi Parasuram (MKUniversity)

Paper short abstract:

Drama can be of help in three areas of concern for Autism. 1. Improve the eye contact and personal bonding. 2. Social Skills by group work and peer interaction. 3. Communication skills by soundscape method.

Paper long abstract:

Drama has been in the service of Disability since ages. Though Drama for Autism is a recent phenomena, it has proved effective in certain key areas of deevelopment in the case of Autism. One of my pioneering research methods called Mask for Autism is being used in many parts of the world as a tool to improve eye contact and thereby personal bonding. mask also enriches the creative skills of children with autism. making masks is fun.

One of the disturbing factors of Autism is poor social skills and children avoiding social interaction. The Method of Rehearsed response improves peer intercation and helps them to manage social situations. Family functions like Marriage and funerals are an issue that is addressed in Rehearsed Response

The Method of Soundscape emphasies communication strategy rather than speech. Coummication is related to movement of limbs.

Drama for Autism addressed the key areas of deficit in Autism.