The Connection between Being Autistic and Being Artistic
by Neerja Anand
On 20 February, 2021
"It's no use going back to yesterday because I was a different person then." – Lewis Carroll
What do actor Dan Ackroyd, author Hans Christian Andersen, British singer Susan Boyle, poet Emily Dickinson, the legendary Michelangelo, artist Andy Warhol, and composer Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart have in common? Besides being very talented and legends in their own rights, is there any common factor that binds them together? Yes, there is one common strand that makes them unique as a collective. They have all been considered to be on the autism spectrum. History is replete with the talented and the artistic succeeding in their chosen art fields while living with ASD.
Anecdotal evidence has shown that many people on the spectrum are very intelligent and creative with cognitive abilities more than their neurotypical peers. Plus, sensory hypersensitivity and the tendency of people with ASD to focus more intensely on details may lead to them being good in fine arts & other talents. People with ASD have variations in brain development involving emotional processing, social cognition, face recognition, and executive functioning. They may be hyper- or hypo-sensitive to various stimuli, which may impact their participation in certain social events or activities. Alternatively, this hypersensitivity can make some people more perceptive as compared to their neurotypical peers. Combined with their attention to detail makes some on the spectrum talented as artists and in other fields. However, the artistically inclined do not always get formally trained or study fine arts, etc as some of their peers. Therefore, their unique style of art represents their own inner world and their own individual takes on the world around them.
Hungarian artist and poet Henriett Seth creates abstract and highly patterned works. The French artist and author Gilles Tréhin is a self-taught artist who creates mainly architectural drawings using a pencil. Some of his sketches are about his imaginary world called “Urville”. These are just two examples of trending artists who happen to be on the spectrum. Art, as we know, is an ideal form of expression for many with ASD, especially those who are nonverbal in their approach. Art and visual communication offer such people an outlet a sensorial way to express themselves on a daily basis.
Art is a creative and beautiful form of self-expression. People with ASD can vastly benefit from art therapy. It helps in regulating emotions, improving social interaction with loved ones, and building self-confidence. It calms and soothes the senses as well as reduces maladaptive behaviors. Art heals and brings out the best in people with Autism, and can be a great source of joy & beauty to them, their loved ones, and the world at large.