Autism spectrum disorder is defined as "a range of complex neurodevelopment disorders, characterised by social impairments, communication difficulties, and restricted, repetitive, and stereotyped patterns of behaviour," according to the National Institute of Neurological Disorders & Stroke. Since "ASD varies significantly in character and severity," there are few set treatments for every child that is diagnosed with it. Based on the basic underlying facts of the disorder, however, autistic children may embrace some arts and crafts activities that take into account their unique needs and preferences.
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Use Interests to Engage
Rupa Bishnoi, an elementary schoolteacher who has had experience with autism in students, says "Many autistic children have fixations like maps, cars, buses, trains, etc. These fixations should not be suppressed and can actually be turned into learning opportunities." Therefore, choosing arts and crafts projects that each individual child has shown past interest in may be helpful. To avoid frustration, choose simple projects at first that require minimal instructional, such as pasting two black wheels made from construction paper onto the body of a cut out car. Maps can be drawn with only a few marking points, such as a student's home, school and the local playground. Projects that the children already understand or have done before may be preferable at first to that require more introduction.
Repetition is Good
A characteristic of an autistic child is that they engage in very repetitive behaviour, even in play, according to the NINDS. Examples include lining up cars along a table rather than pushing them across like their peers will, or only stacking up blue blocks while completely ignoring the rest lying around. With this in mind, a suitable art project could include collecting a group of items of the same shape to paint and paste onto a poster board. If tolerated by the children, the project could be repeated with a new group of items to teach different shapes. For example, one day have all blue circles, the next day have squares.
Keep the Projects Individual
As Rupa Bishnoi describes, "ASD children have a social life limited only to self, they don't have a normal affective relationship with others. They shut themselves off from any inputs or anything that come from outside them. They don't understand relationships." Projects such as constructing group collages could encourage socialisation, however, each child's tolerance for group interaction must be taken into account to ensure a comfortable experience. In severe cases, it may be most suitable to introduce projects on an individual basis.
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