The role of creative mindfulness for people with autism

Did you know that 85% of people with autism perceive colours more intensely? So, on this World Autism Awareness Day, we want to create awareness on how colours affect people with autism, and how mindfulness activities like arts and crafts can help them live a full, fun and happy life.

Autism is a spectrum condition that affects different people in different ways. Like with all people, certain colours stimulate the brain and create emotions, such as excitement, danger and calm. For instance, think of a bright red room next to a light grey room. If you wanted to relax, which room would you go and sit in?

According to various studies, due to structural abnormalities that appear in the brain, dull colours with white and grey undertones are preferred by many people with autism, as they have a calming effect. Light pink is a particular favourite colour for many, along with blues and greens. In contrast, orange, red and yellow are often negative colours and can cause behavioural and impulse problems.

However, this is a generalisation and different people with autism will have different experiences when exposed to different colours. An easy way to determine which colours an individual with autism prefers or is sensitive to, is by introducing colouring. This knowledge can then be transferred to other things, such as room decoration, clothing, toys and other environmental factors that include elements of colour.

Colouring is an immersive activity that enhances motor skills, improves hand-eye coordination, is fun, and can help many individuals with mental health issues. Mindfulness is when you are alert and aware of your experiences, such as viewing different colours, and how that makes you feel.

Mindful creativity, including colouring, has been proven to reduce the symptoms of anxiety, stress and depression, while also encouraging improved behavioural, cognitive, emotional and interpersonal functioning.

Drawing mandalas, which are geometric patterns, usually in a circle, has been found to reduce negative mood state and actively serves as a mood enhancer. Colouring these mandalas can decrease the heart rate and blood pressure of the person colouring, while improving some of the symptoms of stress and anxiety.

These mandalas are often found in mindfulness colouring books, and they are often abstract, require more dexterity and contain calming illustrations with intricate patterns. By colouring these pre-drawn illustrations, people with autism can suspend their ‘inner dialogue’, focus on the present, block out external distractions and engage in an activity that is calming and has a meditative effect.

There are various websites where you can download free mandalas and other mindfulness colouring pages, including:

So today, on this World Autism Awareness Day, print out some pages, make a cup of tea, sit in a quiet corner and get colouring!

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