Tips For Helping Perfectionist Kids With Autism Make Art

Posted January 4, 2013 @ 10:25pm | by Danelle

Perfectionism.  The enemy of creativity.  For many of my students with Autism this is especially true.  Glimpses of incredible ability and determination are there but they become trapped by their “rules”.  They may draw the same thing over and over but not be able to continue to develop their skills by trying something new.  Or they can’t finish anything they start because it isn’t “right” or “perfect”.

Here are some tips I have found helpful to overcome these obstacles and escape the land of perfectionism.

Have the artist work on smaller pieces of paper or smaller amounts of clay etc…so that pieces will be finished quicker and the artist will have less time to be critical and come up with reasons to not finish it. 

Keep unfinished work that the artist makes.  This would be pieces that they will not finish because they don’t look “right”.  Make a deal with the artist to start a new piece for the first part of an art session.  The artist will then choose one of the unfinished pieces to work on for the last half.  (This may require serious negotiation!)

Example:  Lay out three pieces of art that the artist has started but hasn’t finished because they are unsatisfied.   Tell the artist to choose one piece to work on and finish.  Ask the artist to choose the one that they least want to do.  Remove it from the table.  Ask the artist to choose from the remaining two.  Ask the artist to choose the one they don’t want to do.  Remove the one they choose.  This leaves the one they will work on.  While the artist may still be resistant they will have the one they “can live with”.  

The artist works on a new piece for the first half of the art session and works on the chosen unfinished piece for the second half.   Keep unfinished work and keep rotating through future art times.  It may take a while to get the artist to tolerate this process.  This will be extremely challenging to the perfectionist sensibility but once it becomes a routine it will just become part of the process and the established way of doing things.





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