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Background to the Study

According to Weintraub (2013), Autism is characterized by delays or abnormal functioning before the age of three years in one or more of the following domains: (1) social interaction (2) communication; and (3) restricted, repetitive and stereotyped patterns of behavior, interests and activities. The American Psychiatric Association’s Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders [5th edition] claims that the Autism Spectrum Disorders or the Autistic Spectrum describes a range of conditions classified as neuro-developmental disorders characterized by social deficits and communication difficulties, stereotyped or repetitive behaviours and interests, and in some cases, cognitive delay. Autism spectrum encompasses the previous diagnoses of autism, Aspergers’ Syndrome, Pervasive Developmental Disorder Autistic Disorder, Rett Syndrome and Childhood Disintegrative Disorder.

According to the Centre for Disease Control, 2009, about 1% of the world population have Autism Spectrum Disorders. It is seen as the fastest growing developmental disability with its prevalence in the U.S. Autism affects the processing of information in the brain. It alters the connection and organization of nerve cells and their synapses. It is highly heritable, but the cause includes both environmental factors and genetic susceptibility. Although, how it exactly takes place is relatively less understood.

According to Popova (1995), Autism and its related conditions remain among the less understood mental health issues of our time. But one significant change that has taken place over the past few years has been a shift from perceiving the autistic mind as disabled but as ˜differently abled’. Examples of the difference are the extra-ordinary individuals like mathematical mastermind Daniel Tammet or architectural savant Gilles Trehin.

To Gillan (2006), some autistic children may be mute or have exceptional speech and language abilities. Many children are hypersensitive to sensory information such as sound, sight or touch. To him, all children have the potential to create art and exercise critical regions of the developing brain.

In Clara Clairborne Park’s book; ˜’Exiting Nirvana’’ (2001), a few children with autism have the ability to demonstrate well-developed visuospatial and visual memory skills when making art. They may produce detailed spontaneous drawings in perspective of favorite objects such as buildings or animals from various vantage points. Often, children with autism exhibit repetitive behaviors such as making multiple, identical drawings. This should be encouraged since these children find the activity pleasurable and interesting.

Gillian (2006) is also of the opinion that a child with autism may indicate his or her needs using non-verbal communication, such as grabbing the art teacher’s hand to request something. An art teacher can encourage a verbal child to speak about his or her art process. An art teacher can ask; ˜’what colour is the crayon?’’ if the child responds with the correct answer, he or she should be praised. If not, the teacher may say, ‘‘Say ˜red crayon’’ to elicit a correct response, followed by praise. Besides, many children may enjoy a drawing project using paper with crayons or pencils because this medium requires a low threshold for processing sensory information.

On the other hand, Barnes (1937), sees Visual Arts as art forms that create works which are primarily visual in nature, such as ceramics, drawing, painting, sculpture, architecture, printmaking, modern visual arts (photography, video and film making), designs and crafts. Ifeagu (2002) explains Visual Arts as the branch of art that depends solely on the sense of sight for experience and appreciation.

Generally, Arts can be classified into Visual arts and Non- visual arts. The visual aspect is further classified into Fine Arts and Applied Arts. Fine Art has Drawing, Painting and Sculpture as its branches. For the sake of this study, Drawing would be used as an instrument of therapy. Banjoko (2000) sees drawing as the act of using lines to represent, define and describe object visually. It is also seen as an invaluable method of improving the students of things through observation. This study is based on the use of visual art, specifically, drawings to aid students diagnosed with Autism Spectrum Disorders in improving their communication and social skills. They would be able to express themselves through drawings which would invariably provoke their sense of reasoning and expression.

 1.2 Statement of the Problem

Studies have shown that a large number of parents lack the adequate knowledge of Autism Spectrum Disorders. Hence, they find it difficult to accept the abnormalities displayed by their children as being necessary for immediate intervention. Besides, most teachers are not grounded with the knowledge of the disorders which makes it difficult for them to teach the diagnosed children. Most would ignorantly ignore their needs and possibly write them off as being non-comformists or derailed. Some are even subjected to rejection and isolation which makes them not useful to themselves not to talk of being useful to their families or the society at large. Instead of being ignored, such children could be enrolled in special treatment schools so as to be able to explore their innermost feelings, interact with other special children without fear of rejection and also maximize their potentials.

This study examined the use of Visual therapy to aid the diagnosed children in their learning so as to be imaginative and expressive. It emphasizes learning by ˜doing’. The practical nature of this study would make learning meaningful, real, fun-filled and exciting.

 1.3       Research Questions

The following questions were raised in other to resolve the problem of the study:

  1. Is there any significant effect of Visual Therapy on learning disability?
  2. Is there any significant effect of Visual Therapy on Anxiety disorder?
  3. Is there any significant gender difference in the effect of Visual Therapy?

 1.4       Research Hypotheses

  1. There is no significant effect of Visual Therapy on learning disorder.
  2. There is no significant effect of Visual Therapy on Anxiety disorder.
  3. There is no significant gender difference in the effect of Visual Therapy.

 1.5       Significance of the Study

Knowledge of the wide range of causes, types, symptoms, treatments and therapies would enlighten parents, teachers, diagnosed children and other interested people on how to appropriately diagnose and manage the disorder. This would aid a better understanding of how to interact with children diagnosed with Autism Spectrum Disorders. Besides, emphasis would be placed on their strengths and opportunity would be given to them to express their innermost thoughts and feelings through drawings.

Visual Therapy would be used as a therapeutic means of managing children diagnosed with the disorder. It is an important therapy that would be adopted in teaching children with Autism Spectrum Disorders so as to be able to learn better and communicate verbally and non-verbally. Visual Therapy will help children with Autism Spectrum Disorders to build a good visual or perhaps, mental memory which would make learning real and relatively permanent. With the creation of drawings, they would be able to learn well understand and express their thoughts with the images.

Through this therapeutic intervention, diagnosed children would be able to improve self expression, abilities and communication skills. They produce art works by themselves which would be a representation of their thoughts and feelings; self “expressive. Their sense of creativity and feeling is explored and sublimed in the images. Hence, they have a sense of self awareness, productivity and self exploration.

Also, researchers who are interested in studying children diagnosed with Autism Spectrum Disorders would find this study quite useful. Besides, the study would be a source of information, or perhaps, knowledge to all so as to be able to have a basic idea of the disorder which would help in its appropriate management.

 1.6       Operational definition of terms


It’s an acronym for Autism Spectrum Disorders and can sometimes be referred to as Autistic Spectrum Disorder. It is a developmental disorder in which children display some degree of mental retardation, learning disability, behavioural problems and anxiety disorder.

ASDs are developmental disabilities that have been caused by a brain abnormality. A person diagnosed with it has social and communication difficulty.

Nervous System

According to the Advanced Learners’ Dictionary, the Nervous System refers to the system of all the nerves in the body. It is the part of an animal’s body that co-ordinates it’s voluntary and involuntary actions and transmits signals between different parts of its body.


It simply refers to the treatment of a physical problem or illness. It is the attempted remediation of a health problem, usually following a diagnosis.


This is the presence of one or more additional disorders or diseases co-occurring with a primary disease or disorder; or the effect of such additional disorders. It could also be regarded to as the presence of two or more medical conditions existing simultaneously regardless of their causal relationship.


It’s an illness that causes a part of the body to stop functioning correctly and accurately which leads to a lack of order or organization. It could also be referred to as a functional abnormality or disturbance.


This entails looking for, or determining the cause or nature of a disease, problem or illness through its symptoms. It is also the identification of the nature and cause of a certain phenomenon.

Learning Disability

The inability to achieve at a level commensurate with the age or ability when provided with reasonable learning opportunities despite possessing average intelligence, no emotional disturbances and no gross physical defects.  People with Learning disability have trouble performing specific types of skills or completing tasks if left to figure things out by themselves or if taught in conventional ways. Individuals with learning disability can face unique challenges that are often pervasive throughout their lifespan.

Visual Art

The Visual Arts are Art forms such as Ceramics, Drawing, Painting, Sculpture, design, Crafts, Photography, Video, Printmaking, Filmmaking, Architecture, Industrial Design, Graphic Design, Interior Design, Fashion Design and Decorative Art. It is a form of Art that seeks to present diverse complex emotions as documented by the Artist. This is then communicated to the audience through representation media.

According to Quadri (2012), Visual Art is any work of art that appeals to our sense of vision which include; Drawing, Painting, Sculpture, Textile Design, Graphics Design, Industrial Design and Ceramics.

Visual Art Therapy

The British Association of Art Therapists defines Art therapy as ˜¦ a form of psychotherapy that uses Art media as its primary mode of communication. It is practiced by qualified, registered Art therapists who work with children, young people, adults and the elderly.


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