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Video and education in autism - (poster presentation)

Larry Arnold, Autism Centre for Educational Research, University of Birmingham


The study of Autism has proceeded from the 1940's and the study of the moving image even longer from the late 1890's, but rarely has there been any synergy between these two academic disciplines. The moving image from its very inception has been seen as a valuable scientific and educational tool, yet most of the literature has dealt with its entertainment and artistic value. Like the psychological disciplines of the study of autism, it has been a prisoner of it's times and subject to academic fashion, indeed it has shared the same bedevilment of psychoanalysis that frustrated the proper study of autism in the early years. Interventions in autism are still a hotly debated and under researched topic. The literature of autism with something like ten books a week being published is beginning to take its place in the field of cultural and disability studies, yet no-one has paid any serious regard to the place of video/DVD in the education and socialisation of autistic people, despite there being a considerable growth in this industry in the years since the new millennium. My (currently self funded) research intends to address this deficit, taking up from the studies of video, TV and film in education to examine if this is a useful tool for autistic people or just another fad. It involves something of a shotgun marriage of academic disciplines, but inspite of the essentially qualitative nature of "film studies" I intend to exercise some empirical rigour in order to see what if anything is special about the moving image over other forms of instruction, if there is any evidence to support autistic people having a different cognitive interpretation of visually presented material, ultimately with the aim of understanding what makes a good and useful autism video, which inevitably involves some consideration of different cognitive styles. In my methodology I necessarily adopt the emancipatory paradigm, as I am located within the socio-medical concept of autism and intend to reclaim this area of research as something that should be centred on those so cateqorised, with the aim of making the participants shareholders in the discoveries, to which end I have an interactive blog of the research and a mailing list. It is my firm belief that research belongs as much to those who are traditionally considered its "subjects" and that the aim of research should be greater that the mere pursuit of academic hubris.

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