Creative behavior is an important, but often overlooked, topic of consideration for individuals with autism spectrum disorders (ASD). Individuals with ASD are often described as behaving in a repetitive or rote fashion and the behavior they display (i.e., expressive language, play skills, expressive writing) is not typically described as being very creative in nature. Therefore, addressing creativity across a number of domains in individuals with ASD offers to be an important undertaking that could favorably affect their abilities (e.g., to play in a more naturalistic way and to engage in more diverse conversation) in those areas.
Research on Creativity in Children With Autism Spectrum Disorders
Research has been conducted on increasing creative responding in many areas such as the use of sign language or gestural communication, problem-solving skills, imitation of play skills and areas of academics such as creative writing (Rousseau, Krantz, Poulson, Kitson & McClannahan, 1994).
Research has also been conducted to determine how individuals with ASD compare with typical peers and adults in relation to their level of creative responding (Miller & Neuringer). The research has shown that persons with ASD did not behave as variably as their typical peers nor did they respond to novel stimuli (i.e., a new arm added to a maze to push a car through) as much as their typical counterparts. In addition, when they did respond in a new way, it was more likely to be in an alternating systematic fashion, such as a rehearsed response rather than in a random or spontaneous fashion.
In the area of social language, individuals with ASD often have great difficulty expressing themselves. When they do try to communicate, they often use simplistic sentence structure or language that is of a repetitive nature. To address this, it is important to first focus on increasing the use of initiations and then on diversifying the expressive language used (McDonald & Hemmes).
Further research is needed in these areas in order for students to directly benefit. Areas such as: artistic creativity, creativity during play (McDonald & Hemmes) and problem solving are areas of particular importance. It is through this type of research based in applied behavior analysis that more information can be gained regarding how to increase creativity in students with autism spectrum disorders.
It may be worthwhile for research in the area of creative play to focus on areas such as: employing peers as trainers or as models of creative behavior (e.g., a typical peer modeling creative painting), maintaining creative behavior through self-monitoring techniques so that the child is able to play with peers without adult intervention; and measuring the long-term maintenance and generalization of creative play behavior for students with autism spectrum disorders.