Looking for a Subject - Art Therapy and Assessment in Autism

Tipple, Robin A.. 2011. Looking for a Subject - Art Therapy and Assessment in Autism. Doctoral thesis, Goldsmiths, University of London [Thesis]

PACE_thesis_Tipple_2011.pdf - Accepted Version

Download (9MB) | Preview

Abstract or Description

This research makes use of a case study methodology employing discourse analysis. It represents a reflection on the practice of art therapy assessment in a service which provides a diagnosis of children who present with Autistic Spectrum Disorders, that is, with social impairments, communication disorders, developmental delays and behavioural problems.

An investigation of art production in assessment and an interest in the institution’s discourses, are pursued through the construction of case reports. Four subjects (children aged 4 years, 5 years 8 months, 7 years 7 months, and 11 years 5 months) are presented in three forms. Firstly as “documentary subjects” through an analysis of the clinic’s documents. Secondly as “ekphrastic subjects” – here the subjects are presented through a description and reproduction of the art work produced in the assessment, and thirdly as “discursive subjects”, presented through an analysis of speech and actions recorded on video. Emphasis has been given to the discursive construction of subjectivity and the relation between subjects and art production.

The documentary subjects illustrate a story showing that difference disrupts and families seek a restoration of union through engagement with professionals. This story provides a frame which conditions the art therapy assessment and influences art production. A social and cultural understanding of the art production in the clinic, an interpretation that does not discover signs of pathology in the art work, shows that the art work and its intentionality is jointly produced through negotiations between the child and the therapist. The child is able to use art making to assess the situation and present a propositional self in an iconic form and art production also supports the generation of imaginary situations which enables the child to contest and explore power relations.

Item Type:

Thesis (Doctoral)


art therapy, assessment, autism, discourse analysis.

Departments, Centres and Research Units:

Social, Therapeutic & Community Engagement (STaCS)


23 May 2011

Item ID:


Date Deposited:

17 Feb 2012 11:42

Last Modified:

08 Sep 2022 11:15



View statistics for this item...

Edit Record Edit Record (login required)