Your child’s health: Art therapy and autism

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CLEVELAND – Five-year-old Arihant Sarabu likes to draw, but for him it is more than just about making pictures. Arihant is among 25 children with autism working with Art Therapist Michelle Chavez at Rainbow Babies and Children’s Hospital on a special project. “Art Therapy promotes mental health and emotional health by using art processes,” Chavez said.

Sometimes Arihant has difficulty expressing himself with words, but he can get his thoughts across on paper.  "So, detailed because he's talking to us. He's not creating a piece of art as far as he is concerned, he is talking to us,” Arihant’s mom Anwesha Chattopadhyay said.

Like many children with autism, Arihant is a visual learner.  His mom plans out his day with pictures. So, art therapy has become a perfect fit for him.  “Before this was in our lives, he was very frustrated.  Anyone would be frustrated if you want to talk to people but, you can not.  So, he was very frustrated, miserable. And, now, it is a very calming process and a means of understanding him,” Chattopadhyay said.

Chavez also believes the art therapy is helping Arihant. “He is incredibly verbal now -- as well as social skills," she added.

The World Thru My Eyes exhibit, with 25 pieces of the children's favorite artwork will be featured at a professional gallery next month. But, it is meant to do more than just showcase their talent.  "To give the public a glimpse into their world – and, what it means to have autism and what it means to express yourself visually rather than verbally," Chavez said.

Arihant’s mom agreed. "This is an opportunity to speak to the world. To display what they want to say,” Chattopadhyay added.

The World Thru My Eyes artwork will be on display during the International Children’s Festival at Playhouse Square on May 9th and 10th.

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