Nicole Martin is hoping her first book reaches out to a new audience.
Martin, 28, is a registered art therapist, licensed professional counselor and artist. When her book “Art as an Early Intervention Tool for Children with Autism” hits bookstores in May, she’ll also be a published author.
“Most of the existing books on autism were written for professional therapists,” Martin says. “I knew, from my experience of working with families with autistic children, that parents were looking for a more practical book to help them, so I decided to write one.”
Martin’s interest and passion for treating children with autism spectrum disorders began during her high school years in Claremore, Okla.
“My younger brother was diagnosed with severe autism and epilepsy,” she explains. “Our small town didn’t have any in-home therapists at the time, so Jason’s psychologist in Tulsa trained me to run his in-home applied behavior analysis program.”
This training enabled Martin to support herself through school. She worked under the supervision of a board-certified behavioral analysis therapist to provide in-home ABA services in Chicago for children with ASD.
She graduated with a Bachelor in Fine Arts and minor in psychology from DePaul University in 2003, and a Master in Art Therapy from the School of the Art Institute of Chicago in 2005.
“By then, I’d decided to specialize in the treatment of autism,” Martin says. “Art therapists can address many of the goals commonly targeted in autism treatment, such as communication, socialization and sensory issues. The strength of art therapy is its ability to address imagination and emotion-related goals. The rich sensory experience of art-making as well as its ability to encapsulate and organize complex topics makes art therapy a natural fit for individuals with autism.”
She widened her experience by working at a Chicago ABA clinic and an after-school program for adolescents with ASD, before deciding to move to Lawrence with her husband, Daniel Jones, in 2007.
“We wanted to be near both our families who still live in Oklahoma, and we felt Lawrence was a welcoming place where we could enjoy a good quality of life,” she explains.
She is undaunted by the small size of the art therapy profession in Kansas and the consequent lack of public knowledge about it.
“Music therapy is much better known because of Kansas University’s music therapy program, but art therapy is still in its early stages here,” Martin says. “...I’m hoping my work in Lawrence will help spread the word about the importance and success of art therapy in helping children with ASD and other related learning or development disabilities.”
To help achieve this, she’s opened a child-friendly, colorful studio Sky’s the Limit Studio LLC in Lawrence. The studio walls are adorned with children’s art.
“I’m a bit of a kid-art junkie,” Martin admits. “I love working with children and watching them make progress at all sorts of levels.”