Working with Children & Youth

As an Arts Psychotherapist, I’m finding I’m working with more children and youth on the Spectrum and quite a number of them have challenges with controlling anger and feel frustrated and confused with all the “rules” they feel they need to fit in with societies “norms”. High levels of anxiety, sensory issues and communication difficulties can make their lives and their families confusing and can lead to isolation if not supported.

Some of the statements I often hear are “I don’t know why I’m different?” and “I don’t know how I feel?” and “why do other kids bully me?, I don’t even bother them” or “why do I need to go to school? Its boring”. 

Learning to understand these kids to help them through feeling socially awkward and feeling like they’re from another planet and at times to frightened to leave their home can sometimes leave me feeling pretty confused myself. What I am learning though, is to go into their inner world and see through their eyes and their perspective, then structure sessions according to what their goals are.

Because children and youth are naturally creative, they tend to engage really well exploring in the unfamiliar world that Art Psychotherapy can offer as a way to communicate and help make sense of things as they transition through different developmental stages.

One of the strategies I use that may be helpful for parents or carers, is encouraging them to do storytelling using drawings. Don’t be afraid to venture into the dinosaur age or the planet Zilo thats made of slime! Be curious! … Oh so what happened next? Why did the dinosaur run into the cave? What is he scared of? What made Choco leave his planet? How did he get to Earth? What does he need to feel safe? Think about changing the way you communicate and maybe try using different words to promote children to tell a different story to get to understand their thinking process, beliefs and values. I’ve been amazed when teenagers say as a matter of factly that they know the dinosaur or the fish (the metaphor) is themselves. Sometimes they can be one step in front of where we think they might be.

These are a few examples of storytelling using drawings.