Thesis Title

Art Therapy with Three Autistic Boys

Graduation Date

Spring 1981

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


From late January until early in May, 1981, I was an art therapy intern at a residential center for severely emotion­ally disturbed children. I worked closely with three young boys, Mike, Albert and Marcus. The following is an account of that experience which began with my own confusion and con­sequent education about autism, childhood psychosis and the numerous theories of causality and therapy. My own carefully planned art projects were, one by one, shelved once I began interacting with the boys. I have, for clarity, divided the paper into 3 sections. 1. AUTISM: what I learned and how my personal approach developed. 2. THE SETTING: Burt Children’s Center, their approach, bonding therapy, the good, the bad and the frustrating aspects of working there. 3. THE BOYS: from whom I learned as much as I had from any text on the subject. Although the ’’breakthroughs” were few and the progress was slow, the artwork was occasionally re­vealing. Also, I did explore with them a range of experiences and emotions that is uncommon in therapy with autistic child­ren. Through their joys and sorrows, angers and frustrations, I was able to see, in a limited way, the world as they perceive it.