The Beauty of Quilling
How Paper Crafting is Therapeutic for Autism
Quilling is an art form utilizing strips of paper to create designs. Artwork can vary from minimalistic to highly intricate. While at first glance, quilling may seem complicated - with a little patience and practice - anyone can learn this art medium.
I stumbled upon the art of quilling several years ago and quickly became enthralled with the process. I loved watching how a simple piece of paper could be used to create such elaborate works of art. Endless hours flew by as I researched various artists' creations and entertained the thought of giving quilling a try. Within the next week, I had gotten myself a quilling starter kit and dived into my new hobby.
Art and crafting has been a special interest of mine for as long as I can remember. While art can be a fun pastime for many, it is so much more to me. It became an important resource that helped me gain confidence in myself, discover my talents, connect with a community, and ultimately has been therapeutic for my sensory struggles.
I'm a late-diagnosed autistic adult. The spectrum contains a plethora of challenges, but for me, my top challenges include: sensory sensitivities, executive function, social interactions, focus, and motor skills. Having spent most of my life unaware of why I simply wasn't like everyone else, I found it difficult to find my own voice and express my thoughts and emotions to others. Quilling has become a catalyst to help me both heal and thrive, and I truly believe can be beneficial for many others.
The great thing about quilling is that you don't need a lot of fancy tools or professional supplies to get started. All you need are some colored strips of quilling paper, a slotted quilling tool, clear glue, and scissors.
Most basic quilling shapes start by wrapping the paper into a coil with the slotted quilling tool, letting it slightly unravel, and then pinching the paper into the desired shape. It may take a few tries to form the shape exactly as you want but overall, the medium is rather forgiving and allows you to adjust and fix mistakes easily as you learn.
Art is a visual language that empowers the creator to express ideas, emotions, and concepts. It has been a part of humanity for years, allowing us to connect with others from different backgrounds.
Being autistic means that for me, I have trouble communicating my thoughts into words or even recognizing my own emotions right away. Quilling gives me a way to channel these thoughts into something creative and the time to reflect on my emotions.
Focus and Calm
I find when I'm quilling that I'm able to enter a hyper focused state. This allows me to only focus on the act of quilling and shut out most other sensory input around me. This is helpful since most autistic individuals have trouble processing sensory input. What most people can filter out in their day-to-day lives is not always possible for us.
The repetitive actions of curling the paper and pinching them into familiar shapes can also be therapeutic for autistics. Many of us find repetition to not only be soothing, but helps us to regain focus.
Dyspraxia is a common co-occurring condition with autism. This is a lifelong disorder that affects motor skills, perceptions, and coordination which can make it difficult for us to write or hold small objects. Quilling involves a lot of fine motor skills and while it is difficult for those with dyspraxia, it is also a way to practice these skills and build muscle memory.
It's common for those who are autistic and part of the neurodiverse community to feel excluded and misunderstood. I have found crafting a great way to connect with others over our love of our hobbies. There are numerous online communities dedicated to providing resources and tips on quilling while also letting users show off their latest work.
Check out these quilling Facebook groups: