To mark World Autism Awareness Day on 2nd April, I’m focusing this blog post on how and why art – and music and nature too – can help people who have autism. World Autism Day was founded by the UN and is held every year on 2nd April, as an opportunity to rais eawareness of autism and its impacts – so it also seems an opportunity to explore the part creativity can play here, in boosting wellbeing.
At the moment, particular research priorities for autism are mental health, communication and anxiety issues, specifically in adults (as although autism is lifelong, much autism research focuses on children). Creativity and nature connection are in a strong position to contribute to these priorities. Enabling people to express themselves is integral to so much art, music and nature for wellbeing and this could liberate people with autism who find communicating with others difficult. By fostering new ways of thinking, experimenting with art or improvising music could help people who have autism, who may commonly think in a more logical and literal way than many people. And drawing, painting, crafting, music and nature connection can all be calming, easing anxiety.
Art, music and nature are flexible too. People can be free to enjoy them alone, but they can also create common ground to draw people together, which may be useful if interacting with others is a struggle for people with autism.
I’ve recently learned about the charity Aspens’ work with children, young people and adults. Art is one focus of their work, and World Autism Awareness Day is seeing them run a My AuSome Art competition, as well as sharing videos on how art helps the young people involved. On 2nd April their Instagram feed will showcase the young people’s artwork. It really sounds as if art and creativity make an immense difference to these young people, during lockdown more than ever.
It was also great to learn that Aspens is linking art and creativity up with nature and sensory spaces too. As you may know, Medley is committed to connecting different art forms (like music and art) and nature. Their benefits feed off each other. That’s why Medley’s regular Creative Ideas cover all three areas, and why my recent art for wellbeing project has featured music & nature ideas as well.
I believe that a multi-sensory experience is likely to have a greater impact on most people. Art can have many benefits on its own, yes, but when music and art are brought in too, there’s a wider perspective and different stimulus. This may be all the more important for people living with autism. I have heard that young people living with autism in particular respond more to multi-sensory ideas, maybe art therapy outdoors with a musical element as well.
Back in December my blog post Through New Eyes highlighted the work of abstract artist Mahlia Amatina, who has Asperger’s syndrome (an autism variant) https://medley.live/2020/12/03/through-new-eyes Mahlia is now marking World Autism Awareness Day and Month by creating a new artwork each day in April, and I’ll be following that journey.
If you have any thoughts, experiences or reactions on creativity, nature and autism, it would be great if you would like to share them in Medley’s Facebook group https://www.facebook.com/groups/359291215486002 Thank you!