Auckland City Harbour News - - NEWS -

Crates of paints, clay and piles of colour­ful crafts. Looking at Abi Ray­mond’s tools of trade you might not guess what she does for a day job.

The Pon­sonby res­i­dent works as an arts ther­a­pist for IHC’s IDEA Ser­vices, help­ing chil­dren and young peo­ple across Auck­land with autism im­prove their com­mu­ni­ca­tion and be­hav­iour.

Arts therapy uses cre­ative ex­pres­sion within a ther­a­peu­tic re­la­tion­ship to im­prove a per­son’s phys­i­cal, men­tal and emo­tional well­be­ing.

There’s a lot more to it than art and drama, but at the end of the day it’s still all about fun.

‘‘Kids with autism find it re­ally hard to com­mu­ni­cate ver­bally and so­cially and so arts therapy of­fers them an al­ter­na­tive way of ex­press­ing them­selves,’’ Ray­mond says.

‘‘You get to see the play­ful­ness and the joy when they en­gage in the arts therapy process and the con­fi­dence that comes from it. We have so much fun.’’

Each ses­sion is tai­lored to suit an in­di­vid­ual per­son’s needs.

So­cial-skills groups can use move­ment and drama to help young peo­ple com­mu­ni­cate bet­ter with their peers and one-on-one sessions with vis­ual art can im­prove self­ex­pres­sion.

Arts therapy can be used to help any­one of any age, whether they’re af­fected by men­tal health is­sues, dis­abil­ity or trauma.

A cre­ative streak, play­ful­ness and com­pas­sion for oth­ers are all es­sen­tial traits for the role, Ray­mond says.

‘‘I’m a cre­ative per­son so it gets my cre­ative brain work­ing in dif­fer­ent ways. You need to be able to com­mu­ni­cate with peo­ple in lots of dif­fer­ent ways be­cause a lot of peo­ple I work with are non­ver­bal or maybe blind or deaf.’’

Ray­mond cred­its an in­spi­ra­tional art teacher at Ep­som Girls Gram­mar with lead­ing her down this ca­reer path.

As a 16-year-old she was strug­gling at school due to dyslexia, but when the late Dwariko von Som­maruga took her un­der her wing, Ray­mond dis­cov­ered pho­tog­ra­phy and art de­sign.

‘‘It’s amaz­ing how one per­son can have such a big im­pact on you, hav­ing one per­son be­lieve in you, how pow­er­ful that is,’’ Ray­mond says.

‘‘For the first time I started do­ing re­ally well and from that strength of cre­ativ­ity I started to feel re­ally good about my­self.’’

Ray­mond went on to com- plete a Master of Arts in clin­i­cal arts therapy at White­cliffe Col­lege of Arts & De­sign.

‘‘My real strengths are work­ing cre­atively and con- nect­ing with peo­ple and this job is the per­fect match for bring­ing those two things to­gether. I can’t ac­tu­ally imag­ine do­ing any­thing else.’’

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