Conference Papers

How Creative Film-making Can Help to Improve the Social Communication Skills of Children on the Autism Spectrum

This paper is a presentation of the researcher’s PhD research, which is an investigation into the ways that film-making can help to improve the social communication skills of children on the autism spectrum.

Research into how children with autism engage with screen-based technology is primarily concerned with how screens can be used to transmit information, for instance how showing video-recorded behaviour to children can be used to teach them practical and social skills (eg Charlop-Christie et al, 2000; Corbett, 2003; D’Ateno, 2003). Whilst this method may be a useful way for the child with autism to learn desirable behaviour, it does not offer them much opportunity for self-expression. Teaching elements of film production to children on the autism spectrum could provide them with a means of communication that is not reliant on language.
The researcher’s background is in film-making, and much of his professional work has been in film education.This research project is therefore partly a reflection on his own practice, augmented by an investigation into the work of another practitioner, who runs film-making activities in a primary school for children with autism in Cardiff, South Wales. These activities were video-recorded, and analysed using NVivo, looking for instances where the film-making process provided opportunities for social communication.

In order to identify the particular social communication skills that can be addressed by film-making, this research is drawing on the SCERTS educational framework, a well-established educational intervention that provides a means of assessing and setting social communication goals for children with ASD.
Early results from the research suggest that film-making can be a novel way of encouraging children with autism to engage with others in a manner that takes advantage of their natural tendency to engage with information on screens. This is more likely to happen if an individualistic approach is adopted, in which a film project has been developed to align with a child or childrens’ pre-existing interests. The research also highlights some of the barriers to running film-making activities in schools.

Ewart-Dean, B. (2017) 'How Creative Film-making Can Help to Improve the Social Communication Skills of Children on the Autism Spectrum', paper presented to The 13th Annual Conference of the British Education Studies Association (BESA), 29–30 June, viewed 09 August 2020, <>