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A Mom's Perspective on Creative Outlets for Children With Autism

My son has autism. From the time he was two years old, he would take apart and rebuild everything he could get his hands on.

My son's first butterfly drawing.


Far be it from me to start a writing guide or expertise introduction on Lego toys. While my son, an avid collector and builder of the popular toy might be able to write a detailed book, I would not dream of starting a how to guide on collecting them or where to buy them for hobbyists.

No, my focus here today is placing importance on creative outlets such as using Legos to enhance imagination in children with Autism.

As far back as two years old, I remember my son taking apart everything he could get his hands on and rebuilding it. His curiosity peaked when my grandfather bought a truck that could extend to trim trees. My son studied with both eyes carefully walking around the truck, making mental notes about all the nuts and bolts, and how to put them back together if ever got the chance to take it apart.

Because he couldn't express himself in words, he walked in to my grandfather's kitchen and drew out a plan for un-assembling each piece.

We knew my son was smart then. But the diagnosis didn't come until much later.

After going through several digital clocks, a digital timer in the kitchen, and several fountain pens that my son decided to take apart and inspect further to figure out how all of it works, I decided it was time that he had his own hands-on building equipment to create the masterpieces he was constantly recording with pen and paper.

Some creations come naturally, while others come from boxed sets that the child can build from.


Every detail counts.


Pick up a sample of paint chips at the local hardware store and experiment with muted shades of your child's favorite color.


Providing space for creativity.

The first thing a child needs to plan a day of creative fun and activity is space and lots of it!

Here are some suggestions for planning an area designated to your child's favorite hobby:

  • Determine if your child's bedroom placement is adequate.

Many children like big bed rooms and lots of open space. A child with Autism may have sensory stimulation issues which may be heightened if in a room with too much or too little lighting, a sense of expansion which frightens the child, or a wall color that doesn't appeal to the child's palette.

See the table below for Ways to create a subtle effect in a bedroom.

  • Stock plenty of hands-on components that coincide with your child's favorite activity.

My son loves Legos. It goes hand in hand with building structures. Other activities he finds appealing are toys with a hole and peg system. Therefore, we created a space in his room to house several bins full of his favorite toys. He is most often interested in Legos, but works with other elements to entertain his brain.

  • When organizing an area for toys, there are several ways to do so without breaking a budget or inheriting too much clutter.

Find inexpensive bins with lids. Label the bins on the sides in permanent marker. These bins can be stacked to save space in a small area.

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Also, a multi-cube bookshelf can retain soft bins for storing one of the same item by color.

Use soft-sided bins to store items by color in a 9-cube bookshelf.


Choosing the right size bookshelf.

If you choose to design an activity center around a bookshelf where you plan on housing all of the bins or activity items, plan ahead and measure to make sure the shelf is not too tall. Children sometimes can't reach the top of taller shelves and injure themselves removing items from higher shelves.

Use smaller plastic bins with lids for smaller similar pieces.


Ways to create a subtle effect in a bedroom.

Painting a RoomDecorating a RoomStocking the Room for Creativity

Choose a soothing paint color.

Choose soft accent pieces such as a soft chair with cushions.

Pick furniture with dull corners or use edge protectors.

Neutral colors will match other bedroom decor.

Place a beanbag in the room for relaxation.

Find bookcases that can be anchored to the wall so they won't tip over on a child.

Pick dulled tones such as gray, slate blue, or beige.

Use room-darkening curtains in dark colors to deter bright light from peeking through to the child's play area.

Use soft bins for storing toys.

Allow your child to determine what they are best at.

You may have an opinion opposite of your child. It happens in the best of homes with the best of intentions.

Your child may love to finger paint. You find it messy and are often exhausted after cleaning up everything that got paint splatter, all of the brushes, and wet paper.

However, this is critical time your child needs to enhance his or her development.

Being able to choose an appropriate hobby for himself or herself achieves a feeling of accomplishment.

The last thing you want to do when your child has Autism is build a level of frustration between you that will cause unruly meltdowns and outcries for attention.

The first key to understanding your child with Autism is to listen to them and understand how they feel about something. If you doom your child to failure from the onset, the child will expect to fail.

Let your child be!

There is no right or wrong way to allow your child the freedom of expression when building from Legos, drawing, coloring, or any other enjoyed activity.

If your child likes to draw and uses animals instead of stick figures, encourage your child to draw scenery and tell you the meaning of the drawing.

If your child likes to play video games, inspire them to complete a level instead of quitting when it gets too challenging.

If your child is writing a story, ask them for more details so they will have to think a little harder to get their point across.

When your child colors in the ocean with a pink crayon, allow them to tell you why they did so when water is blue.

Don't ever discourage your child by telling him or her that it's not the right way, or it's not the way you would have done that. By doing so will only hurt feelings and discourage them from ever trying again.

To enhance your child's creativity and learning, encourage through subscriptions to or books about their favorite hobby.


Here are how to tips for implementing the above suggestions.

If your child has an unshared bedroom, of course the task of creating space will be easier.

Sometimes it's not possible to have a bedroom just for one child.

Think about the house as a whole and determine if there is extra space that can be turned into a creativity center for your child.

Here are some ideas for transforming extra space in to a creativity center:

  • Turn an old coat closet into a craft room. Install a knee-high desk, corkboards for displaying art work, shelving for storing bins of art supplies.
  • Use pantry space for art supplies. Purchase bins with drawers. Separate craft materials and label each bin. Place under existing pantry shelving.
  • Create space in a basement. If unfinished, purchase foam flooring, bean bag chairs, and other accessories. Leave the space open for building with Legos or other toys.
  • Use an enclosed porch for play space. The possibilities are endless. Using old furniture, there are many ways to transform a porch to an exciting room for imagination!

If none of those options are possible, try finding a stand-alone pantry cupboard. Measure space in your home to see where it would fit. In it, store all the essential ingredients for creating an organized space for items your child loves to play with. Use the kitchen table or the carpeted living room floor for play time. Everything can go back in the pantry neatly afterward.

Do you have any tips?

I would enjoy reading what others do to promote the imagination and spark creativity in the mind of a child.

Thank you for reading this article.

Written by Crafty to the Core, dedicated to my awesome child!

This content is accurate and true to the best of the author’s knowledge and does not substitute for diagnosis, prognosis, treatment, prescription, and/or dietary advice from a licensed health professional. Drugs, supplements, and natural remedies may have dangerous side effects. If pregnant or nursing, consult with a qualified provider on an individual basis. Seek immediate help if you are experiencing a medical emergency.


CraftytotheCore (author) on October 04, 2013:

Thank you billy for your comments.

Bill Holland from Olympia, WA on October 04, 2013:

This is very important information for other parents who are going through what you are going through. Bless you and your son, Brandi, and thank you for sharing this so that others might learn.

CraftytotheCore (author) on September 25, 2013:

Awww! Thanks for sharing those. Your daughter is beautiful!

threenorns on September 25, 2013:

*facepalm* don't remind me about the flour:

or onion skins - she looooooooooooooved onion skins!

CraftytotheCore (author) on September 25, 2013:

You are quite welcome Ben! I enjoy reading all of your Hubs.

Benjamin Chege on September 25, 2013:

Hi CraftytotheCore. I have seen your comment. Thank you for your time.

CraftytotheCore (author) on September 25, 2013:

I just read it and think it's awesome! I'm not a techy person personally so I love to read up on things because it helps me understand. I think it's a fascinating product.

Benjamin Chege on September 25, 2013:

Hi CraftytotheCore. If you say so. I have tried my best and hope you will find it useful.

CraftytotheCore (author) on September 25, 2013:

Wow that is a cool idea Threenorns! My son used to drive his little plastic toy cars through flour for hours. I would dump flour outside on the back patio or on the kitchen on newspaper, and he would sit there and entertain himself with that.

threenorns on September 25, 2013:

oh! one thing i found that is guaranteed to keep her dead quiet for an hour or longer:

in the tub, dump two or three boxes of corn starch.

add just enough water to make it a thick slurry ("goop").

add naked child, provide with colouring such as food dye or water colour paints.

the funny thing about this stuff is you can pick it up and it will form a solid as long as you keep it moving, but hold it still and it all drips away between your fingers. haven't tried it yet, but i think if i don't add too much water, the surface of the goop lying in the bottom of the tub should solid enough to paint designs on with a wet watercolour brush but then she could pick it up or just stir it all away. (obviously this would only work so many times before it becomes hopelessly discoloured).

added bonus: silky-smooth skin.

CraftytotheCore (author) on September 24, 2013:

I would love to read a Hub about it Ben!

CraftytotheCore (author) on September 24, 2013:

Thank you so much EP! I love the way you speak. Chock full of ideas! LOL That's awesome! :D

CraftytotheCore (author) on September 24, 2013:

Thank you so much for commenting and sharing your story Brave! My son also has ADHD but the doctors have him on Kapvay which has worked tremendously to help him control his impulsiveness. He can sit down now for longer periods of time. They mainstreamed him in regular ed too this year with a full day aide. He is doing so much better than before his diagnosis.

Benjamin Chege on September 24, 2013:

Hi CraftytotheCore, I will write more about it once I verify all the information. Enjoy your day

Elizabeth Parker from Las Vegas, NV on September 24, 2013:

I don't have children, but this hub was chock full of great ideas that seem surefire way to spark creativity. Great job! Voted up and shared.

Shauna L Bowling from Central Florida on September 24, 2013:

Crafty, my son was ADHD until he was a senior in high school. When he was little, he'd spend hours with his legos. In fact, I still have a race car he built sitting on one of the shelves in my office. Once he got into high school, he joined JROTC. What a change in his behavior! He was on the drill team, which gave him focus. He was in JROTC all through high school and 'retired' as an officer. To this day, when he has time, he visits his Colonel at school. It's all about focus with ADHD children. I don't have any experience with autistic children, but thought I'd share my story with you.

CraftytotheCore (author) on September 24, 2013:

Ben, that sure sounds like something my son would enjoy for sure! I have not heard about it. He has the ability to envision something and build it with legos. I'm sure he would be most excited if I purchased something like that for Christmas!

Benjamin Chege on September 24, 2013:

Hi CratfytotheCore. I think children need to be allowed to pursue what they like doing. For my child drawing is their hobby. Can wait for the 3Doodler first 3D pen, which draws objects on the air. Have you heard of it? That will be interesting to every child and make them more creative.

CraftytotheCore (author) on September 24, 2013:

Very well noted point threenorns! You are absolutely correct. Flooring can definitely have an impact on a child with sensory issues. Anything in the environment, like you say about the space heater noise, all very true points! Thank you for taking the time to comment here! You input is invaluable.

threenorns on September 24, 2013:

hi! one thing you didn't address was flooring. we bought a house based solely on the fact that it was the first house we'd been in where she parked herself in a bedroom and announced it was hers.

after we moved in, we painted the colours of her choice (pink and purple with sparkles and jewels) and ripped out the nasty (NASTY! - organic stains and cigarette burns!) carpet and put down laminate to combat allergies.

once her room was perfect, she proceeded to empty every single dresser drawer and even pull the clothes off the hangers and leave them strewn around the room. couldn't walk in there without tripping and slipping on clothes. i would clean up and she'd have a royal meltdown then pull them all out again the moment i left the room.

i was completely baffled and not a little frustrated, exasperated, and just plain angry. she kept saying the room wasn't "right" without the clothes but buggered if i'm going to wash loads of laundry to have them dumped all over the floor straight from the basket!

one day, we were in a book shop and she was being unusually obnoxious. i was at the point of throwing all the books on the counter and just taking her out of there when a lady asked if she had asperger's. i said yes and she said "i can tell - she acts exactly the same way my kids do in the class room if i leave the flourescent lights on." that led to a discussion about environmental factors that adults just don't detect. when i got home, i tuned in to my own asperger's and looked around her room again. there was a buzzing noise coming from the space heater (got rid of that), a "woowoo" noise from window coming through a gap in the window frame (fixed), but the worst was that the laminate threw up an echo in her room that wasn't there when the carpeting was down.

once we put a cotton rag rug down to muffle the sound of the floor, no more problem - the clothes stay in the drawers.

more or less.

CraftytotheCore (author) on September 24, 2013:

Hi DDE! When I was a child I didn't have nearly as much freedom to work with my creative side. I was stifled because no one wanted a mess to clean up after. I made sure when I had my children that I provided them space to make a mess because that's half the fun of creating! :D

CraftytotheCore (author) on September 24, 2013:

Hi Flourish! The first time I heard my son had spatial intelligence was in a doctor's office. My son was able to demonstrate how he built a marble run from the inside out with his imagination. He built a maze inside a box that a marble can freely roll through from one end to another with a slight jiggle of the box. I don't have that kind of brain!

Devika Primić from Dubrovnik, Croatia on September 24, 2013:

Great suggestions for children with autism and also children feel free to work with what they enjoy. Parents require patience with their children. A useful hub and lots for thought here.

FlourishAnyway from USA on September 24, 2013:

Terrific ideas. I love your son's butterfly drawing and am truly impressed by what appears to be giftedness in the area of mechanical/spatial intelligence. By being attuned to his needs you are allowing him to rise to his strengths. If only every parent could be that sensitive. What a triumph for everyone!

CraftytotheCore (author) on September 23, 2013:

Thank you! I'm still working on the other one we talked about. :D

Grace Marguerite Williams from the Greatest City In The World-New York City, New York on September 23, 2013:

This is a very informative hub. Each child has a different talent and gift which parents must encourage and nurture in order for the child to accept and value himself/herself and to have high self-esteem. The worst thing for parents to do is to denigrate one child because he/she is different emotionally, mentally, developmentally, and/or psychologically from another child. Excellent article indeed!

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