Children begin to draw at around 2 years of age. By this stage they have reached the following developmental milestones:
•the ability to focus visually and being able to understand and use vision.
•awareness and interest in colour, shapes, forms
•the ability to handle things
•some understanding of relationship between self and surrounding objects
•when they are no longer at the oral stage of exploring
•When they are aware of object permanence
•When they are able to contain liquids to some extent.
That is they can intentionally interact with substances as separate things in space, not as something that overwhelms them. They have some understanding and ability to interact with objects in space as opposed to being subjected to the experience.
Art Therapy with children with developmental delay can help them to reach these developmental milestones. An Art Therapist uses art media in ways that directly address the needs of the individual and their stage of learning.
Children with autism at various ages may have reached many of these milestones but are often overwhelmed by input due to hypersensitivities, perhaps combined with developmental delay. The experience of liquids such as paint can be frightening or cause the opposite reaction and overexcite.
In Art Therapy I often assist clients with autism to learn how to contain and control media such as paint. Learning how to control things in the environment can help the child with autism learn that they can interact with things in the external world rather than feel subjected to and overwhelmed by things.