Unlocking the languages of autistic children in families

July 28, 2016, University of Kent
Families play in the pod. Credit: University of Kent

Researchers at the University of Kent are arguing that creativity and intermedial languages can be used as a bridge to communicate with autistic children.

In a joint article, Material voices: intermediality and in the journal Research in Drama Education: The Journal of Applied Theatre and Performance, Dr Melissa Trimingham and Professor Nicola Shaughnessy of the University's School of Arts say autism continues to be regarded as a community that is difficult to access due to 'perceived disruptions of interpersonal connectedness'. Researchers engage the children in an all-surrounding drama experience using lights, sound, puppets and masked characters, where children are free to play and respond, drawing out eye contact, speech and shared play.

Their pioneering research using drama with autistic children started with an Arts and Humanities Research Council funded project 'Imagining Autism: Drama, Performance and Intermediality as Interventions for Autistic Spectrum Conditions' (2011-2014) working in special schools and has now extended to working with families. The project aims to help the whole family through teaching them new play skills using drama and puppetry, multi-sensory materials and even comedy to help with challenging behaviour. The family programme developed from workshops with teachers and carers in NAS (National Autistic Society) schools and was funded by the University of Kent.

The writers are parents of autistic children themselves and have personal experience of family life with autism. Through detailed observations of two children, they demonstrate how 'intermediality' unlocked some of the many and various languages use, facilitating their self-awareness.

They argue for wider use of creative 'material' languages such as puppetry, costumes, projection, microphones, lights and sound in play as a bridge between the lived experience of autism and practices of education and care.

Explore further: Study uncovers new approach to autism

More information: Melissa Trimingham et al, Material voices: intermediality and autism, Research in Drama Education: The Journal of Applied Theatre and Performance (2016). DOI: 10.1080/13569783.2016.1195121

Related Stories

Study uncovers new approach to autism

March 24, 2014
In a Kent research project entitled Imagining Autism, children with autism engaged in a series of interactive sensory environments such as 'outer space', 'under the sea' and 'the arctic'. Each environment was designed for ...

Australia-wide autism report calls for 'agile' response in classrooms

May 11, 2016
A report investigating the educational needs of students with autism has identified social and emotional needs as the top priority to ensure success at school.

Tests show no specific gastrointestinal abnormalities in children with autism

February 25, 2016
Children with autism have no unique pattern of abnormal results on endoscopy or other tests for gastrointestinal (GI) disorders, compared to non-autistic children with GI symptoms, reports a study in the Journal of Pediatric ...

Research reveals hidden anguish of schoolchildren with autism

December 18, 2012
(Medical Xpress)—Schoolchildren on the autistic spectrum experience worrying levels of mental health difficulties, according to a new study by research psychologists from The University of Manchester.

Two-Thirds of kids with autism have been bullied: study

March 30, 2012
(HealthDay) -- Nearly two-thirds of American children with autism have been bullied at some point in their lives, and these kids are bullied three times more often than their siblings without autism, a new survey finds.

Recommended for you

US autism rate edges up in new CDC report

April 26, 2018
Researchers at the Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health contributed to a new U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) report that finds the prevalence of autism spectrum disorder (ASD) among 11 surveillance ...

Study shows cognitive behavioural therapy can improve emotion regulation in children with autism

April 24, 2018
New research from York University's Faculty of Health shows cognitive behavioural therapy (CBT) can help children with autism manage not only anxiety but other emotional challenges, such as sadness and anger.

Research reveals autism and schizophrenia share common traits

April 24, 2018
New research at Swinburne has revealed a significant overlap in the traits associated with autism and schizophrenia.

Social awareness increases prove brain changing in adults with autism

March 28, 2018
Researchers at the Center for BrainHealth at The University of Texas at Dallas, in collaboration with co-leading authors at George Washington University and Yale, have demonstrated in a pilot study that a clinician-driven ...

Autism's social deficits are reversed by an anti-cancer drug

March 12, 2018
Of all the challenges that come with a diagnosis of autism spectrum disorder (ASD), the social difficulties are among the most devastating. Currently, there is no treatment for this primary symptom of ASD. New research at ...

Scientists link genes to brain anatomy in autism

February 27, 2018
A team of scientists at the University of Cambridge has discovered that specific genes are linked to individual differences in brain anatomy in autistic children.

0 comments

Please sign in to add a comment. Registration is free, and takes less than a minute. Read more

Click here to reset your password.
Sign in to get notified via email when new comments are made.