Thesis Title

Art-Making in the Digital Age: Comparing the Use of Tablet Technology and Traditional Art Materials Among Studetns on the Autism Spectrum

Graduation Date

Spring 2014

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

Sarah Kremer, LPCC, ATR-BC


The rapid and complete integration of technology into American society may require fields such as art therapy to consider evaluating and incorporating newer media into their practice with appropriate populations. This thesis is an initial exploration in the use of digital art applications on touch-screen tablets such as the iPad (™) with individuals on the autism spectrum. The study compared the behavior, time, and artwork of 15 students aged 11-18 years with diagnoses of Autism Spectrum Disorder; they each created a free drawing and a “Person Picking an Apple from a Tree” drawing with both the traditional art materials and an iPad art application The results indicated that participants displayed more sensory issues with the traditional art materials than the iPad, and spent less time on the iPad than the traditional art materials. Six participants stated a preference for the traditional materials, five preferred the iPad, and four liked both mediums equally. The researcher recommends further research into whether digital art therapy can be an effective alternative or adjunct medium for clients on the spectrum or with tactile sensitivities.