Autism and the art of communication

Friday, November 1, 2013
First author:
Pater M.
Belonging: Strenghts & Barriers II

Stichting Papageno, Laren, the Netherlands

All authors:

Mathieu Pater, Aaltje van Zweden - van Buuren 

Social Inclusion & Representation
Inclusive Arts, Social Change, Self-expression

Where we are

Stichting Papageno aims to engender the enthousiasm, skills and knowledge for appreciating human difference by the use of the arts for wellbeing, self-expression and positive social change.

We offer the opportunity to work on real life arts projects such as Ontmoeten (Meeting) MuziekMakers (Music Makers) and Papageno Music Therapy. Music is a universal human form of communication and has the power to break through language barriers, physical barriers and mental and cognitive barriers, in order to enable contact and communication with others. This communal experience is unique to the art of music.

Therefore, since 2007, Papageno has been developing its Ontmoeten projects, in which young people, under the supervision of musicians and artists, work with a symphony orchestra to produce and perform their own music theatre performances.

The aim of Papageno MuziekMakers is to help musicians, teachers and caregivers to give children with disabilities the opportunity to express themselves through music and to participate successfully in a musical activity with others.

Papageno also offers music therapy for children for whom it is not (yet) possible to participate in music education in a group.


In order to realise the best possible art experiences for children with autism and other disabilities, art teachers, creative therapists and specialists must display a willingness to share their expertise and work space for the purpose of developing interdisciplinary objectives. Additional research should be able to stimulate the development of methods and show which assignments degree programmes could incorporate in order to develop a clear concept, policy plans and educational directions that would ensure the continuity and quality of art education for pupils with special development requirements.

Children (both with and without autism and/or or other disabilities) should be offered the opportunity to work in laboratory-like settings to engage them in art activities under the supervision of excellent instructors, in a situation that allows scope for experimentation in an open dialogue with students of art education and creative therapy, artists, teachers, and normally developing children.

Good Practices

By monitoring the projects Papageno has acquired vast knowledge and experience. This expertise comprises the foundation block for all further developments, as well as for the training and coaching of the professionals wishing to work with children with autism.

During the presentation you will see and hear about practical examples of how these projects have been received by the teachers and students within special needs education. Further to the observations made and by monitoring the projects, Papageno is overwhelmingly convinced of the positive effects of arts education for children with autism.