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Expressive Arts in Ecotherapeutic Contexts: a social intervention for Autism

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posted on 2023-08-30, 15:30 authored by Kevin Burrows
Within the current education environment there are those who, due to differences in brain architecture that affect social understanding, are outside of what is regarded the norm, of the neural typical (NT). For these people with an autism spectrum condition (ASC), the world can be a confusing and frightening place (Jordan, 2007). It can be argued that reductionistic/behaviourist models of learning, based on a competitive performance and targets measured against predetermined national standards of achievement, create environments that isolate and constrain, causing anxiety for people with autism. How the topic was investigated: As part of their further education art and performing arts curriculum, four 16 to 19-year-old students with ASC engaged in art making of masks while in natural woodland. Expressive Arts Therapy was used as an alternative model to support assessment of their work, by enabling the viewer to re-experience the sensate experience held in their ASC artwork/masks through Schaverien’s (2000) concept of ‘scapegoat transference’. This entails an embodied, attuned, non-verbal, dance/movement response to the ASC-made mask, followed by visual art making, which embeds an aesthetic countertransference into poetry. What was found: Coding this intermodal poetry through Galvin and Todres’ (2010) ‘embodied interpretation’ and Faulkner’s (2009, p.27) poetic ‘research tankas’ arrived at a distilled version of the original ASC live art process as a series of embodied interpretation tankas poems. When read, these evoked in the viewer or reader the heuristic essence of the ASC live art process (Baggs, 2007). What conclusions were drawn from the evidence: Creating such sensate ASC live art tankas poems may form an appropriate assessment method for visual art making for those with and without ASC. As such, it makes an original contribution both to assessment in the arts and intervention for ASC. I claim that my methodological journey and pedagogical interpretations make a unique contribution to knowledge in this discipline.



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