Paper Type

Doctoral Dissertation


College of Education and Human Services

Degree Name

Doctor of Education in Educational Leadership (EdD)


Leadership, School Counseling & Sport Management

NACO controlled Corporate Body

University of North Florida. Department of Leadership, School Counseling & Sports Management

First Advisor

Dr. David Hoppey

Second Advisor

Dr. Chris Janson

Third Advisor

Dr. Hope Wilson

Fourth Advisor

Dr. Dina Ricco

Department Chair

Dr. David Hoppey

College Dean

Dr. Jennifer Kane


Visual art is an enriching part of educational curriculum and an individual's development (Malley & Silverstein, 2014), but public school curriculum is increasingly focusing on standardization, core subject curriculum, testing, and accountability measures leaving creative fields behind as merely an additive part of education or a resource (Hourigan, 2014). Arts education within a system focusing on these areas creates a one-size-fits-all curriculum (Wexler, 2014) for students rather than accounting for individual student learning needs. A differentiated system is needed to respond to varying learning styles and stages of development. With the rising number of students being diagnosed with autism (Zablotsky, Black, Maenner, Schieve, & Blumberg, 2015), this shift becomes especially important for a growing population of students who exhibit a wide array of academic, social, emotional, and behavioral learning needs. The integration of therapeutic visual arts into an education curriculum can account for these elements of a student's developmental and learning needs as well as the need for self and expressive exploration (Albert, 2010; Anderson, 1992; Bush, 1997; Henley, 2001).

This dissertation outlines a Q Methodological study that examined perceptions from professionals in the fields of art therapy, art education, and special education around what programmatic features should be included in a classroom-based therapeutic visual art designed for school-aged students with autism. These perceptions were collected through a Q sort of 42 item Q set. The results of the Q sort were analyzed and interpreted. From the patterns and themes that emerged from this interpretation, I developed program recommendations and implications surrounding classroom-based therapeutic visual arts programs designed for students with autism in a large public school district in the southeastern United States.