Importance: Autism spectrum disorder (ASD) is a neurological condition characterized by impairments in social interaction, communication, and behavior. Occupational therapy practitioners use creative arts interventions for children with ASD, but relevant evidence for these interventions is lacking.
Objective: To provide occupational therapists evidence of the benefit of creative arts interventions for children with ASD by evaluating treatment efficacy and connecting the evidence with the Occupational Therapy Practice Framework: Domain and Process (4th ed.; OTPF–4).
Data Sources: We searched peer-reviewed articles in six databases: CINAHL, Cochrane, PubMed, Ovid, PsycInfo, and Scopus. Eighteen articles published between 2000 and 2020 met Level 1b or 2b evidence criteria and were retrieved for full review; 15 were included in this scoping review.
Study Selection and Data Collection: We used Preferred Reporting Items for Systematic Reviews and Meta-Analyses (PRISMA) guidelines to extract data. Inclusion criteria were as follows: (1) Level 1b or 2b study; (2) quantitative data; (3) published in English; (4) population of children (ages <18 yr); (5) primary diagnosis of ASD; and (6) creative arts intervention in the forms of drawing, painting, or coloring; music; or theater.
Findings: Creative arts interventions benefited children with ASD in two OTPF–4 areas (process and social interaction) pertaining to the Performance Skills domain and one OTPF–4 area (body functions) pertaining to the Client Factors domain. We found similar effects for group and individual intervention sessions, and significant improvements required multiple sessions.
Conclusions and Relevance: Our findings provide evidence for the efficacy of creative arts interventions to enhance occupation-based outcomes for children with ASD.
What This Article Adds: Our findings support occupational therapy practitioners’ use of creative arts interventions to improve OTPF–4-based client factors and process and social interaction skills for children with ASD.