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Many people on the autism spectrum have great difficulty learning and using conventional language. This website presents the use of drawing as an alternate and augmentative mode of communication for individuals on the autism spectrum. 

The techniques described here were originally developed with Adam, an extremely bright boy whose profile was at the profoundly non-verbal end of the spectrum. I have been his main therapist since he was 3 years old, and initially introduced drawing into our sessions in a desperate bid to get him to stay in one spot for more than a fleeting moment. When he was little, I drew endless pictures, vignettes and cartoon stories to explain the world to him, unaware that he was storing all of these images into his strong detailed visual memory. Years later, when Adam was eight years old, his motor abilities matured to the point where he was able to draw shapes on a large easel – he drew himself exactly as I had drawn him countless times – I was amazed, and his expressive drawing took off from there.

Adam is a young adult now, and drawing remains an essential expressive communication channel for him.  At this point, he can speak in full sentences that are mostly intelligible to a new listener. However, when he’s upset, when he’s feeling sick, when his allergies are bad, he loses his verbal language. With drawing as his backup, he is never left without a voice. 

Since Adam began to use drawing as a mode of communication, I have successfully used similar techniques with many other children on my caseload.  I have found the techniques to be broadly useful  for diagnostic profiles spanning the autism spectrum. Individual modifications are necessary to tailor the basic techniques (drawing to explain the world, direct teaching of drawing skills using “follow me” drawing, learning to understand and tell comic-strip stories, connection of drawing to conventional language) to each person – everyone has their individual needs and their own unique style.

So, welcome to the website! It is a continually evolving project, and we invite your feedback as we attempt to share what we’ve learned over the years.

© Sheila Bell, Speech-Language Pathologist, “Autism and the Art of Communication” ~ 2015