Imagining Autism – Project funded by The Atkinson Development Trust


What is Imagining Autism?

Imagining Autism is a project about developing arts engagement for children, and young people with autism or communication difficulties, and their families. . It is a pioneering practice based research project that uses drama and performance as a way of interacting with children on the autism spectrum to facilitate verbal and social interaction and creativity.

Using multidisciplinary drama interventions and play, Imagining Autism creates an opening into the child’s world through performance. The expert team from the University of Kent who have pioneered and evaluated these techniques will facilitate physical interactions between performer and child using puppetry, objects, light, sound and digital media, creating magical sensory environments in which autistic children are free to dream and wonder, free to lose themselves and to explore, while potentially finding new ways of connecting with the world around them.

You can find out more about the initial stages of the project here:

Imagining Autism at The Atkinson

For 2 weeks an immersive environment will be built  in our studio and children from Rowan Park and Presfield High will take their very own journey into Outer Space.  The experience is a natural, spontaneous creative process using images, sound, environment and a loose narrative to communicate with the children. This will include arriving in a rocket exploring the different planets, moon walking, shadow play, meeting the alien and feeding him moon rocks then returning back to earth. For older children and digital natives there are interactive, responsive technologies such as live feed and interactive sound and light.

Practitioners will involve the children as co-producers of their stories and experiences, taking cues from the children, working with their reactions and responses.

This project shows the social impact of academic research on the real world and its results will have the potential to influence the practice of museum and galleries as well as the potential for future multi-sensory programming across the arts.

This project is funded by University of Kent, Children and the Arts, The Atkinson Development Trust and the Heritage Lottery Fund.

Imagining Autism Website

Imagining Autism for professionals

These free events are for professionals who work with people with autism, including teachers, childcare professionals, drama and arts professionals and healthcare professionals. Professor Nicola Shaughnessy and Dr Melissa Trimingham will present their work and discuss how their findings can be applied in a variety of professions.


Imagining Autism for families

These free and informal events are for parents and carers of children with autism. As parents of autistic children themselves, Professor Nicola Shaughnessy and Dr Melissa Trimingham will share and discuss how their findings can be applied at home as well as inviting families to share and discuss their own experiences.

The Atkinson would like to thank our funders