How Painting can help Children with Autism and Other Learning Differences?

The main challenges while working with an autistic child is that they have difficulties in verbally and socially communicating with others. Today we have various behavioural treatments or therapies and medicines to help an autistic child to develop his/her social skills, build self-confidence, control anger and overcome other challenges but researchers suggest that one of simplest yet very effective method is to introduce the child to art.

According to Delhi’s new generation, contemporary artist Shantala Palat (also an art teacher) - art has both a healing as well as a meditative element for kids. It inspires them and allows a different kind of space for free and creative expression. Art builds self-confidence in a way that children need. It develops listening skills and an ability to work from part-to-whole. It develops trust in one’s teacher.

As each child is different, there is no right or wrong method that can be applied to all children with autism to get them introduced to art. Hence, the goal is to start art projects that are easy to understand and do. Finger painting, hand painting, making puppets or clay moulding are easy to start with and later move to complex ones once the child starts to develop interest and confidence in art. If the child does not like one medium, do not give and try another method. Remember, art projects should be fun.

Also, the most rewarding part of introducing an autistic child to painting is when the child starts expressing their feelings and impressions of the world through their brush.

Young Indian Talents

Siddharth Nair from Cochin

At the age of two, Siddharth Muraly Nair suddenly fell silent. He stopped talking. Seeing him drooling at one end of his mouth and his muscle power weakening, his anxious parents rushed him to doctors who duly diagnosed him with Asperger’s Syndrome — a medical condition which makes it difficult for an individual to engage in socializing and meaningful conversations.

At a young age Siddharth's mother introduced him to the world of colours and images. Siddharth began painting, using pencils and acrylic and watercolours, replicating what he saw at home, at school, at his grandparents’ home and the places he visited, onto the white canvas. By the time he reached the eighth grade, his father said, Nair’s teachers recognised the artist in him and compelled him to devote more time to the art. His speaking skills, though restrained by Asperger’s, had improved as well.