This blog post is a bit of a cheat as I’m actually just going to re-blog a post by my husband! He is studying for a PhD on theatre for the very young, and we are currently collaborating on a paper which discusses how best to make performances appropriate for infants and toddlers. One of the key issues is that performers need to focus more than they usually would on the needs of their audience, and that lesson equally applies to work with children with autism. In our research we have gone to significant lengths to create our app with input from the eventual players, or their representatives (i.e. parents and teachers). I talked about this in my last blog post on participatory design. In addition, we have constructed the research participation process around the needs of children with autism, and in acknowledgement of the constraints on their family. For example, making the assessment space and process as autism-friendly as possible. But of course, we have every motivation to do this because without the kindness and co-operation of people with autism and their families, our work would be worthless.
In Ben’s blog post he discusses the work of a theatre company who recently created a special autism-friendly performance of Mary Poppins. This is amazing and so valuable to the autism community. As a society, I firmly believe we should be moving as far as possible towards an acceptance of the requirements of individuals with autism, rather than expecting them to fit in with neurotypicals all the time. Of course, work which helps people with autism to communicate so those around them can understand, or which gives people with autism the skills they need to get a job or live independently, will always be valuable. But we have to give a little to get a little and this kind of show is a really excellent example of how to do that. I hope you agree.