Art Therapy & Technology

Certified SketchUp instructor Steve Gross teaches two children how to use the SketchUp at an iSTAR camp.

(the video shows the examples of Sketchup used by children with ASD)

Around 8 years ago, a number of parents with children on the autism spectrum contacted the SketchUp team to tell them how this three-dimensional design program has provided their children with a means of expression. This program is able to utilize the extraordinary visual and spatial abilities of those with autism. Project Spectrum along with the Autism Society of Boulder Country launched a program in order to help children with autism. SketchUp provides a means in which nonverbal autistic children could communicate and express themselves through visual imagery. For other autistic children, it enabled them to realize educational and career goals that can serve them in their lives. In some situations, they might not have even contemplated on being able to fulfill these goals, but with SketchUp, they are given that opportunity. Their self-esteem increases because they are able to better express themselves.

Hearing about these stories led Cheryl Wright, Family and Consumer Studies Associate Professor at the University of Utah, to examine the possible benefits that SketchUp may provide for autism. She decided to start a camp called iStart that utilizes SketchUp.

Through thorough observations of the campers, Professor Wright’s team was able to discover that the campers not only learned a skill set that would be beneficial to future employment, but also they developed strong interpersonal skills and confidence. The camp helped these children by focusing on their hidden talents rather than the disorder. This enabled the children to discover more about their strengths, thus leading to better self-esteem.

The Animated Mask
Jeff Jamerson discusses how he can use traditional mask making, and create an animated version of it on an application. He would take a picture of the mask, and adjust the photo of the mask as desired. Afterwards, a person can record his or her voice and create a talking animated mask. This can be used for storytelling and creating narratives.

Drawing and Writing on the iPad
Technology seems to help autistic children connect to the world. Emma is a non-verbal autistic girl. She uses art on the Ipad to better express herself. Through art on the iPad, she is able to create sentences to describe what she sees. As the therapist speaks and colors on the ipad, Emma is able to repeat after her and understand some verbal cues. Afterwards, she repeats to check her understanding.

Compiled by Sung Jae Chang (MPS Class of 2019)

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