1st Edition

Art as a Language for Autism Building Effective Therapeutic Relationships with Children and Adolescents

By Jane Ferris Richardson Copyright 2023
    214 Pages 29 Color & 36 B/W Illustrations
    by Routledge

    214 Pages 29 Color & 36 B/W Illustrations
    by Routledge

    214 Pages 29 Color & 36 B/W Illustrations
    by Routledge

    Art as a Language for Autism addresses the clinical challenges that are common in working with autistic spectrum disorder by exploring how artistic expression can provide a communicative language for younger clients who are set in their thought processes and preferences.

    Exploring how both art and play-based approaches can be effective tools for engaging therapeutic work, this book introduces strategies to help young clients find expressive "languages" that can fully support communication, expression, and empathic understanding, as well as build skills for relaxation, calming, and coping. Building from a foundation of a client’s individual strengths and interests, this playful and integrative approach is informed by an awareness of the individual sensory profiles and the developmental needs of children and adolescents with autism. Through a greater awareness of these materials and processes for therapy, the reader will be able to create a space for their young clients to share what they know and care about.

    This exciting new book is essential reading for clinicians working with children and adolescents on the autism spectrum.

    1. Introduction: The Rainbow Day  2. Listening to What We May Not Hear  3. A Strong Image of the Child with Autism  4. Finding a Language for Feeling  5.Chapter Five: Who is Diagnosis For?  6. A World Between Art and Play  7. Playful Art and Artful Play: an Integrative Approach to Art and Play in Therapy  8. Trusting the Process in Autism  9. Clay, Play, and Connection  10. From Perfectionism to Playfulness  11. Empathy: Understanding the Other Through Art and Play  12. Potential and Possibility for Adolescents  13. The Spectrum and the Continuum  14.   Experience Becomes a Doorway: A Parent’s Story  15. Conclusion


    Jane Ferris Richardson is an art therapist, an exhibiting artist, a play therapist, and an associate professor of art therapy at Lesley University. Her developmentally based, integrative approach to working with children merges both art and play.

    "Working In the dance space I have found that when we make assumptions about a child’s ability to develop and communicate, we only place limitations on the child that are based on a very narrow understanding of them until they reveal themselves to us.

    ‘Art as a Language for Autism’ is the most wonderful and welcome addition to this perspective which provides the reader with insights of a powerful creative approach to building relationships and reimagining life changing outcomes for children and their families. Written with decades of hands-on clinical experience and a rich in-depth academic knowledge of art and play based therapeutic practice, Jane’s work is truly ground-breaking and offers inspiring pathways to following and discovering the potential within each unique child."

    Ali Golding, MSc, PG Cert SEN, BA(Hons), FRSA

    Founder, Director, Artistic Director of MovementWorks

    "In this much-needed contribution to the lexicon of ASD literature, Dr. Richardson informs clinicians, educators, and parents on the value of creative approach with children on the spectrum. Richardson frames art as a means of communication for a population that typically struggles with this; indeed, she reminds us that art is fundamental expression. The words and experiences of her young clients are shared with a genuine respect, and Richardson anchors these anecdotes by expertly weaving in the theory of art and play therapists, psychologists, and autism researchers. I look forward to recommending this text to students, clients, and colleagues."

    Dr. Rachel Brandoff, Ph.D., ATR-BC, ATCS, LCAT 

    Assistant Professor & Coordinator of Art Therapy Concentration, Community & Trauma Counseling Program, Thomas Jefferson University

    "This thoughtful book weaves links between the Reggio Emilia humanistic approach and art therapy. The Italian educational philosophy perceives a child as competent, whole, and part of society. Jane Ferris Richardson adapted it in-depth into the world of art therapy and autism in particular. Through a prolific kaleidoscope of stories, she demonstrates processes adjusted precisely to each individual. She playfully combines many nonverbal communicational languages: visual arts, music, movement, play, sand tray, storytelling, in a profound attunement to each client. 

    The scope of interventions is rich and integrates the connections between mind, brain, and senses. She demonstrates how the arts are crucial in therapy and sometimes the only way to approach a person, especially with children with autism. This book is a meaningful contribution to those interested in art therapy, play therapy and intend to work with people with autism."

    Nona Orbach, a multidisciplinary artist, therapist, blogger, presenter.
    Latest book: The Good Enough Studio 

    "Jane Ferris Richardson has created a powerful and intriguing look at working with autistic children in her book Art as a Language for Autism: Building Therapeutic Relationships with Children and Adolescents on the Autism Spectrum. Richardson has skillfully interwoven the intersection of the therapeutic powers of play with the healing components or art and expressive intervention. This book presents client examples, research support, and art and play interventions throughout. Among the highlights is a chapter dedicated to adolescents and a chapter portraying a powerful illustration of a mother and son and their journey/connection through art. 

    This book will speak to the creative and expressive therapists who work with autistic children and their families. It is also a powerful read and insight for parents and families. The power and relevance of art with autistic individuals has been lacking in literature. Richardson does an excellent job of negating this oversight."

    Dr. Robert Jason Grant, creator of AutPlay® Therapy