Of Art and Autism

Posted by cservaes on September 17, 2012 in "Academic Programs", Arizona, Faculty/Staff, "School of Arts and Sciences" Traci Brown believes it was divine intervention that led her to her career path in behavioral health. “When I was 15 years old, I started working in a church preschool where one little guy didn’t develop along with the others. He opened the door for me to explore how to reach him, and since I am very creative, I was able to teach him using a different approach,” she said of using art therapy and thinking ‘out of the box.’ Now more than 16 years later, Brown is working as a Direct Services Supervisor for The Family Centered Autism Program at Touchstone Behavioral Health in Phoenix, Arizona. She uses her creative side, her background in developmental disabilities, and her Bachelor of Arts in Psychology, to develop, write and implement curriculum that helps autistic children and their families deal with autism spectrum disorders (ASD). Brown officially graduated from OU-Arizona in December 2011 but celebrated her degree completion at commencement ceremonies in May. At Touchstone, Brown teaches coping skills and offers informational courses to families with children who have been diagnosed with an ASD. She also helps children between the ages of six and 17 to develop social skills in their natural settings in a fun and rewarding way, such as doing art and yoga at the behavior center, in their homes or during school recess. During an art project, kids can be partnered so that they learn to share and communicate by asking to borrow one another’s art supplies or having to wait their turn. Brown calls these “teachable moments.” “Teaching social skills in the most natural manner possible seems to be the most effective because it is functional and taught in the moment. From the outside, what may appear to be just arts and crafts actually has a lot of underlying therapeutic components intertwined,” she said. “Art can be very beneficial for non-verbal children as it provides a tool for expression in a very non-threatening manner. It is also a wonderful tool for sensory integration and fine motor skill development.” Brown is currently working on her Master of Arts in Professional Counseling, specializing in Expressive Therapy at Ottawa University–Arizona. Once she completes her degree, she plans to continue her education so that she can become a board-certified behavior analyst and certified yoga instructor. She also aspires to eventually open her own practice. “Art and yoga have always helped me, and I want to give back the ‘gift that keeps on giving’ by teaching others these coping tools,” she said. Brown has truly found her passion in what she does and is excited to continue to progress in the behavioral health field. “I love what I do. I get to use my behavioral analytic side along with my creative artistic side. I just adore the children and the families that I am blessed to work with.”