The Benefits of Art Therapy for People with Autism

Tammy Peterside
3 min readJan 20, 2023
Stephen Wiltshire draws a panoramic view of Tokyo’s skyline

A couple of years ago I had come across a video of Stephen Wiltshire. The incredible talent of this artist who was able to draw the skyline of Rome after only a 45-minute helicopter ride was fascinating. Stephen Wiltshire is a British artist who has gained worldwide fame for his detailed, panoramic cityscape drawings. He is known for his ability to memorize and recreate complex landscapes and cityscapes from memory after seeing them just once.

Wiltshire was diagnosed with autism and struggled with verbal communication at a young age. His first words were at the age of 5. However, he showed a natural talent for art from a young age and was able to express himself through drawing.

Wiltshire’s cityscape drawings are incredibly detailed and accurate, often including hundreds of buildings and landmarks. He has drawn cityscapes from around the world, including London, New York, Tokyo, and Rome. His drawings have been exhibited in galleries and museums around the world and he has been commissioned to create works for clients such as the Queen of England and the president of the United Arab Emirates.

In recent years, the use of art as a therapeutic intervention for individuals with autism has gained increasing recognition. Studies have shown that incorporating art into therapy can improve communication skills, social skills, and emotional regulation for individuals on the autism spectrum.

Why is Art Therapy so impactful for Individuals with autism?

  • It allows for non-verbal expression: Many individuals with autism struggle with verbal communication, and art can provide a way for them to communicate their thoughts and feelings without relying on words. Art also allows for flexibility and creativity in expression, which can be especially beneficial for those struggling with rigid thinking.
  • It helps improve social skills and teamwork: Creating art with others can provide opportunities for social interaction and teamwork and help individuals develop their ability to take turns and share.
  • Emotional regulation: Art can provide an outlet for individuals with autism to express and process their emotions. The process of creating art can be calming and help individuals manage their emotions in a healthy way. Art therapy can also help individuals with autism to improve their social skills, build self-esteem, and develop coping mechanisms for managing stress and anxiety. Incorporating art into the daily routine of individuals with autism can also provide a sense of structure, predictability, and sensory stimulation, which can be calming and grounding.

It is important to keep in mind that individuals with autism may have different interests and abilities when it comes to art, so it is important to tailor the art activities to the individual’s needs and preferences. It is also important to have a trained art therapist or other professional lead the art therapy sessions to ensure that the therapy is conducted in a safe and appropriate way.

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Tammy Peterside

Data Enthusiast | Creative Storyteller | Mental Health Advocate