Therapeutic Form Drawing: Movement made visible
Taking a line for a walk: Creative and versatile yet simple and calming sensory activity making imaginative use of repetition to develop body and mind, i.e. hand-strength, rhythmic patterns and non-verbal tactile communication
- Does your child just wander around aimlessly, doing and learning nothing?
- Do you feel at a loss as to what to play with him and panicked that time is passing unused?
- Do you wish someone would show you a simple activity you can do with your child?
Therapeutic Form Drawing is often one of the first successful activities in an Autism Home Consultation Programme for a parent with an autistic child ‘who doesn’t do anything’. It combines non-verbal communication and sensation as the child feels the adult’s warm and grounding touch when moving the crayon over the paper and seeing it leave visible lines in beautiful colours.
‘Why Therapeutic Form Drawing’?
Drawing is more versatile and creative than writing. It is also more direct and simple. Already a mark on paper tells us something of what the child is feeling: a very faint pale line tells us something very different from a forceful bright orange scribble. Encouraging children to draw gives them the opportunity to express, show and share their ideas and feelings.
Therapeutic form drawing uses simple straight and curved lines, which are the basic elements of writing, in slow predictable rhythms to create an infinite variety of patterns and beautiful designs. It is particularly useful to help the aimless and pre-symbolic child (including many children with ASD/autism) to feel the grounding quality of the pressure of the crayon and the movement of their arm and fingers, when making simple purposeful lines. It is very easy to implement for the adult, as all it requires is a few sheets of paper and 1-2 crayons.
'Taking a line for a walk’
Frequently Asked Questions
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The drawing of lines, curves and shapes as ‘pictures’, without the pressure of having to be representational or symbolic, is a developmentally earlier form of figurative drawing. Instead of drawing a house or a person, the form drawing picture makes internally sensed movement and rhythms visible, so these inner experiences can be shared with the outside world. It is therefore a wonderful exercise for children, who have not yet entered the symbolic world, e.g. those with an autism diagnosis or other developmental delays.
Therapeutic form drawing develops thinking, feeling and the will by integrating many of our senses including touch and vision, movement and a sense of direction, balance and spatial awareness, breathing and self-regulation. Moving with certainty across the paper and leaving a beautiful line strengthens the child’s felt sense of moving with more confidence and purpose also in other areas of his life. Therapeutic form drawing prepares children for learning to write and draw creatively, as it strengthens fingers, hand-eye coordination and fine-motor skills, as well as concentration, imagination and a sense of beauty. The simple predictable rhythms have a calming effect and the use of different colours adds emotional depth.
Therapeutic form drawing
- makes imaginative use of repetition in order to create beautiful forms and purposeful rhythmic patterns
- has a strengthening effect on the development of a sense of self and mental structure by integrating bodily and mental-emotional experiences through rhythmic movement, hand-eye coordination and hand skills
- has a calming effect as it stills the (hyper)activity of the lower limbs (legs), so the movement can be carried out mentally using hands and fingers in effortful ‘continuant activity’ (Geoffrey Waldon), which in turn
- leads to more regular breathing, getting more oxygen to the brain, and therefore improved attention and mental, visuospatial and thinking capacities, thus stimulating the life force for children and adults
- practices all the skills that are required for successful writing, drawing and thinking
‘Bad drawings’ are helpful. Don’t be afraid that you can’t draw. In fact, ‘bad drawings’ are much more helpful than perfect or machine made pictures. A quick sketch that doesn’t look much like the car, person or incident you want it to represent will require more imagination and talking, as you will have to tell the child what it is supposed to be. You now have something like a shared secret, or language, for both you and your child to remember. Imperfect drawings from adults also help children not to lose confidence or feel that they can’t draw as well as the adult.