Art Therapy

Creativity isn’t something that can be forced. It can motivate us when we least expect it. We find inspiration in all that is around us. In nature, in our community, in those we care about. In the events which move us and shake us to our foundation. Sometimes creativity is fueled by the darkness within ourselves. In the parts of us that make us vulnerable. It can reveal what we are unable to express with words alone.

My family and I have found that what fuels Nicholas’ drive to produce art is enthusiasm, curiosity, and watching others enjoy his finished creations. What more, he is continuously expanding his knowledge with fun and creative ideas so that he never loses interest in his work. There are several techniques that we practice with him while he paints that are more about creating an enjoyable experience than the painting itself.

Mixing acrylic paint – While mixing different color paints together, Nicholas appears to have an ASMR response. Autonomous sensory meridian response (ASMR) is an experience characterized by a static-like or tingling sensation on the skin that typically begins on the scalp and moves down the back of the neck and upper spine. It has been compared with auditory-tactile synesthesia.

 

Mixing paints is just one of the methods that can invoke this stimulating response. There are many video compilations available online that display mixing paints together while paired along with soothing music. In Nicholas’ case, when he watches someone mix paint in front of him, he becomes very focused and relaxed. This activity has been an excellent way of distracting him from what was bothering him at that moment.

Listening to music – While in Nicholas’ studio, we will often have music playing in the family room for some background noise. Some of his favorite music includes bands such as Rush, Fleetwood Mac, Prince, Alicia Keys, Ja Rule, and the many pop bands from his childhood. Listening to music that is more upbeat always helps get the inspirations flowing.

 

Throwing paint – This is mostly just for fun but can also serve as a viable technique to improve upon an abstract painting. Allowing the brush to flick and throw paint at random can give a work of art new and surprising dimension. Nicholas finds throwing paint to be enjoyable as it always puts a smile on his face.

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Using visual aids – Sometimes the best way for us to learn is through example. It’s not always easy to explain a new painting technique to someone with autism who cannot readily grasp the notion or they have auditory delays. In order to overcome this hurdle, we give Nicholas visual references in the interest of helping him experiment with different techniques. That way it is easier for him to mimic that specific style of artwork while improving upon it using his own methods.

Positive reinforcement and humor – What you should know about Nicholas is that he has a well-developed sense of humor. He loves to laugh, make comedic noises, and play pranks. What makes painting so much fun for him is the experience of interacting with us in his joking manner. He may not always fathom what we are saying but he can understand the positive tones in our voices. By reminding him of what a great job he’s doing and keeping up the pleasant vibes, he is getting a consistent stream of positive reinforcement.

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-Natasha

“I am seeking, I am striving, I am in it with all my heart.” – Vincent van Gogh

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