Tuesday, February 3, 2009

Artistic Therapy for the Asperger's child

{This type of free, child led art was the norm while Mum was on the couch with the sickies.}

Of all the books I have read on Asperger's , and there are many since starting on this journey, one of the most helpful is Creative Therapy for Children with Autism, ADD, and Asperger's by Janet Tubbs. The book is in my sidebar and can take you right to Amazon where you can read others reviews. It is all about using artistic creativity to reach, teach, and touch our children. When you have an AS kiddo everything in their world is "literal". There is no abstract for them, that is too confusing. You, the parent have to learn a whole new way to approach and reach these kids. This child does not learn nor respond the way my other four do or have done. It is not only frustrating at our age to have to relearn this parenting gig but it is frustrating to the child who is always feeling misunderstood. The whole family has to learn how to adapt to this child, um....not easy when you have kids that are not always on board! But it all takes time, a journey alright. I pray daily that we all do what is best for her and seek the guidance of my Lord in how to deal with and handle each situation that pops up daily. Whilst sick earlier this month I just put out alot of art supplies, and I use good quality ones. I order alot from Stubby Pencil Studio and I also go to Michael's armed with that 40% coupon and hit the art supplies. Nothing is more frustrating than having inferior supplies, and I may sound a bit uppity here but it is from experience I am speaking. A few extra bucks on the right implements makes a huge difference.

I just want to highlight a few snippets here and there that I have highligted in the book that kind of "hit me". I will put the authors words in quotes.

On temperaments: " The important thing to remember is that although a person may be a very good teacher and able to educate students, her temperament is at all times influencing her and, through her, the children. It is of greatest importance that teachers primarily be a role model children want to emulate; the imparting of information is secondary. If this understanding is lacking, the educational process of centuries past will be repeated by ignoring the spiritual and emphasizing the mental, or by emphasizing teh head and ignoring the heart. Establishing a relationship with a child means more than developing her potential and strengthening her spiritual nature ; it means preparing her for her entire future."

On Fairy Tales: "It is important that children have activities to build their inner lives of thinking, feeling, and willing. Their spirtitual nature needs nourishment as much as their physical body does.

On Music: "Children on the spectrum are even more affected by loud sounds that other kids are. To counteract stress, eliminate as much as possible any unnecessary noise in your home, and encourage your child to listen to the sounds of nature , which are much more soothing."

"Music is different from other art forms because our feelings in response to it come solely from within and are not based on what we see. It is not the brain or mind that responds to the arts and to music in particular, our spiritual essence does."

On color: " Artistic therapy, including the use of color, may be used to strengthen the will and memory of a child with special needs-or rather, a child in need of special care of his spiritual needs."

The chapter on color was particulary enlightening to me! Reds are calming to a child on the spectrum while to us they are energy. I wear alot of red, I like the color but I feel very alive in red. My daughter has wanted to paint her room red--a request I have poo poo'd until now! We are going to incorporate the reds, peaches and pinks into her decor. My wearing red is also calming to her, who knew!

We are moving forward and changing some of our pedagogy for our Asperger's girl. We have always incorporated Waldorf teaching techniques but will more so now. I cannot be afraid this child will not get "enough" education. A fear that has plagued me. But to respect this child and be mindful of her different workings is paramount to help her learn. I will be using Melisa Nielsons guides from A little Flower Garden. I did a phone consult with Melisa at 6am last week and it was enlightening and refreshing--I won't give up! Her son has AS too so she knows where we as parents with an Aspie kids are coming from.

I am putting her back to the grad three syllabus because in keeping with Steiner's observations on child development, even though she is technically fourth grade, her pull is to the groundwork presented in grade three.

Another leg of the journey continues......


  1. One semester in college I took a course on color therapy and have been fascinated by it ever since. I will never forget a story the instructor told us about her treasured orange teapot. Because her husband was required to entertain clients from work she spent a good deal of her time putting on formal dinner parties in their home. She found them to be quite tedious and dreaded the endless business talk that continued through dessert and into the wee morning hours. Then one day by chance she spotted an orange tea service in a store. Knowing it to be a color of great aggitation and discomfort she had an idea...the set was quickly purchased and put to use during the very next dinner. Amazingly the guests left soon after dessert was served. She admitted to us that although the sight of that orange service was horrid she grew to love it for it worked its trick many times over!

    Am interested in reading Tubbs chapter on color as I've never considered the fact that it affects children differently than adults. My son also begged to paint his walls red...now I know why!

    Very interesting...thanks for sharing,
    natalie jo

  2. wow i apparently don't read your blog enough, i didnt know you had an aspie bird...my dd 7 is an aspie...and we are now homeschooling after 3.5 years of fighting the school system...

    have you read Homeschooling your aspergers child..VERY INTERESTING...great insight..the authors child is also aspie..

    my library doesnt have that book , i'll have to try and order it..

    Celina in Canada

  3. Thanks Celina for the book recommendations, I shall put that on my list:-) Great your homeschooling, I just don't think the schools are equipped sometimes to deal with AS. Some are though so I shouldn't generalize:-)

  4. I did a lot of work over the fall with art therapists and I thought it was the most interesting job. I think I'm going to get my hands on that book-it looks great and right up my alley!

  5. Suzanne, you inspire me to be a better mum. I absolutely love how much you love your children and you go to great lengths to educate them. I believe that you are giving them the best, your love, your attention to great detail. I have tears right now! May the Lord Bless You and show you the best ways to teach your children!
    Bless you Suzanne,

  6. The indications from Janet Stubbs' book seem to go well with the Waldorf Pedagogy, Blessings on this journey. When Amelia was in the Waldorf School they had a boy with Asperger's in their class. The children did really well with being patient with him, they were able to gain a lot from this experience I believe.

  7. Lisa Anne, yes she is behind Waldorf all the way.

  8. Thank you for your very illuminating post on AS.

    My best friends older boy is an AS child, so I understand a lot of what you are talking about. It has been quite difficult for the younger son to understand, and for my friend when the younger son is picking up AS behaviour, not because he is AS, but because he is the younger, always coping his brother's doings. Throw in a divorce and a very bad behaviour by the dad (who obviously is AS too, even if not diagnosed), and it has from time to time been a total mess, and very hard for her to cope with. I'll send her the book tips from you and the comment.

  9. Dear Suzanne,

    I want to tell you what a blessing it is to know you. Your daughter is very blessed to have you for a momma! (All your children are!) I am so glad you are home educating her. You are giving her, and all of your children the best education! Isn't it wonderful to be able to tailor learning to our children's needs and interests?! Thank the Lord for home education! Not only is it a blessing to our children but to us as well!

    Love, Paula

  10. WOW! Very informative! I know several kids with AS and it seems I hear it more often too. The mind is a fascinating thing. It reminded me of when I had to learn to deal with my Aunt with Alzheimer's. Not that I am comparing, but you have to learn a new way of thinking that is not your norm.
    I am happy to see a pic of Sophie on your blog! She's getting so big, but then it's been a while since the Tasha gathering!

  11. I was very interested to read this as I have AS myself. I was brought up in a home where there were multiple disabilities among the children and while the things that needed to be catered for were catered for (mostly for the two legally blind children, myself and my brother, and in the fact that we also homeschooled) we were also taught the importance of adaptability and learning to live despite disability, not expecting everyone to cater to it all the time.

    Sometimes this was just done through life (I hated change, and needed routine, and while my family tried to keep a routine flowing, it didn't always happen and I was expected to deal with that like the rest of the children, whether it was dinner being at the 'wrong time' or dad deciding to take everyone out one day without notice) and sometimes it was done intentionally (I had some sensory issues, don't remember the name now but the method of treatment recomended at the time was immersion. I hated the feeling of sand for example, so I was sat in a sandpit, being hugged and held by an encouraging parent while sand was put on my feet, or brushed against my legs). Sometimes it came from plain ignorance (I hated loud music, my family loved loud music, so we had loud music. Mum assumed the complaints came from sensitive hearing with the blindness)

    As cruel as some of that sounds to some parents these days, I now prefer routine but have the ability to change, usually with minimal stress. The beach is my favourite place to be and I love to walk barefoot on the sand, and while I still have a 'too loud' point with music, it's much higher, and I love music and sound, my problem is I can't handle silence!

    I try to remind parents of disabled children to also teach them to live, and thrive, in the real world, and that the world can't and won't cater to them. I am so saddened to see so many young people with disabilities now who think the world owes them everything and can't cope when they're expected to act like everyone else. I have a friend with AS, probably no more severe than me when we were children, but he is unable to find work because he expects work to cater to him and all his quirks, which is unreasonable. Another friend with cerebal palsy dosen't work and never plans to, not because he can't (I know people worse effected by CP who manage in jobs) but because 'the workplaces won't help me with my disability'. In actual fact, they will, but only with the 'needs'. There is a difference between a workplace buying adjusted equipment or providing a software program or enlarged paperwork, and a company being asked to cater to someones insistance that the shelves are stocked a particular way, or the end-of-trade paperwork is filled in perfectly and consistently by every employee, or the company to take the loss of putting someone who works at a third of the speed of everyone else on helpdesk work because that's 'what he likes' and still be expected to pay them full wage.

    Not saying that this is what you are doing at all! But I figure other AS parents may see this post and everyone needs the reminder sometimes.


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