Date of Graduation


Document Type


Degree Type



College of Creative Arts


Art Education

Committee Chair

Terese Giobbia

Committee Co-Chair

Joseph Lupo

Committee Member

Joseph Lupo

Committee Member

Alison Helm


Students with autism and behavior disorders frequently have a difficult time communicating with their teachers and peers. Art can serve as a vehicle for communication while supporting strengths and encouraging self-esteem. Yet few art teachers have the specialized training needed to work with students on the spectrum, and we are often times left to our own intuition and devices on how to deal with these students. These students deserve greater individualized education, yet this can present a unique challenge to any classroom art teacher who does not have the training to deal with students who come from these special populations. With greater emphasis placed on core subjects such as math, science and reading, there is even less time to have students fully engage in art making activities that may help these students reach their full human potential. This proposal investigates the potential benefits of using selected art therapy approaches within art education classes, and its impact on students diagnosed on the Autism Spectrum (AS) or with Behavioral Disabilities (BD) in an elementary school setting. Through a multiple case study methodology, this proposal investigated the use of a variety of art therapy approaches being developed for use among the AS and BD population in an art classroom setting. Participants in this study were given an additional art class where art therapy approaches were implemented into the projects within the elementary art classrooms. Art therapy fundamentals included Color Psychology, Line Quality and Placement, all of which were used to help decode hidden messages that the artwork may have contained.The purpose of this paper was to discuss how art therapy, when integrated into an art education classroom, could benefit students diagnosed with Autism Spectrum or Behavioral Disabilities. The findings appear to suggest that when certain art therapy approaches are used with students with AS and BD, there is noticeable improvement in student behaviors, student learning outcomes and student creativity.