Our aim was to enable autistic artists to create their own film work, and use the work to provoke dialogue around our research themes. The footage itself was a, visual rather than verbal, insight into how adults with autism view the world. We wanted to give something back to the community whose voices and ideas we documented. We used ‘voices’ to include visual and other kinds of communication. Autistic individuals may have a voice even if they don’t speak.
The target audiences of the films are members of the autism community. We define this community as autistic adults, parents and relatives of people with autism, clinicians, autism researchers, health professionals and educators who wish to gain more insight into their own practice of diagnosis, intervention or referral.
We engaged with our audience from the outset of Exploring Diagnosis through a series of animation workshops. Our strategy was to work alongside research participants to create animated work in an enjoyable environment in order to establish relationships. We also aimed to be as inclusive as possible, working with autistic adults with higher support needs as well as those who are more independent.
We ran four animation workshops with our film partners, Calling the Shots, resulting in film clips and blog. These workshops have taught over 50 adults with autism animation skills. They were located at the National Autistic Society’s Lynx Centre, Somerset, St Marks Centre in Wales and Stallcombe House, near Exeter. Workshop attendees became research participants in the wider project so they helped us with research whilst being helped to learn new film skills. We left film equipment at these venues so participants can continue to develop their skills, and staff have been trained to facilitate animation in the future – so there will is on-going capacity.