Thesis Title

Using Idiomatic Expressions as a Stimulus for Art Therapy with Adolescents With Asperger's and High-Functioning Autism

Graduation Date

Spring 2012

Document Type

Master's Thesis

Document Form


Degree Name

Master of Arts in Marriage and Family Therapy

Degree Granting Institution

Notre Dame de Namur University

Program Name

Art Therapy


John Lemmon, PhD

First Reader

Amy Backos, PhD, ATR-BC

Second Reader

Gwen Sanders, MFT, ART-BC


The art therapy group outlined in this grant proposes the use of narrative art therapy interventions for adolescents with either Asperger's or High-Functioning Autism diagnosis. The goal of the group is for the participants to better understand their collective experience as individuals with life-long diagnoses of either Asperger's or High-Functioning Autism and promote empathy and understanding of their own as well as other's experiences. The art process allows for externalization of painful affective events. It also allows participants to gain insight into their own experiences, and be aware of the universality of their experiences.

Springstone School is a non-profit organization, serving both Alameda and Contra-Costa Counties in California that offers a small-classroom setting for middle and high school students with Executive Functioning Disorders. Many of the students they serve have the diagnosis of either Asperger's or High-Functioning Autism.

The effectiveness of the proposed art therapy group will be measured by a pre and post-group assessment of social skills. Students' improvement on their individual social goals as laid out in their Individual Education Plan or IEP will also be evaluated by teachers and staff. The ethical standards of CAMFT and AATA are addressed within the proposal. The art produced will be photographed with permission for the purpose of future program evaluation and research in art therapy.