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Autism Affects: cognition, kinesthetics and practice based research

Shaughnessy, Nicola, Trimingham, Melissa (2012) Autism Affects: cognition, kinesthetics and practice based research. In: Theatrical Histories - American Society for Theatre Research, 31/10/2012 - 04/11/2012, Nashville USA. (Unpublished) (The full text of this publication is not currently available from this repository. You may be able to access a copy if URLs are provided) (KAR id:31545)

The full text of this publication is not currently available from this repository. You may be able to access a copy if URLs are provided.


Area of Study

This paper explores the methods for conducting and evaluating a practice based interdisciplinary research project,informed by cognitive neuroscience and using drama as an intervention for autistic spectrum conditions.

Methodological Approach

The research uses a practice based methodology (as distinct from practice as research) which, in itself is predicated upon embodied cognition and action learning approaches. Unusually for an arts project, the evaluative methods include quantitative as well as qualitative measures of efficacy.


The focus of the paper is an interdisciplinary case study: Imagining Autism. This project involves cognitive psychologists and performance practitioners investigating how drama can be used as a means of engaging with and understanding autism. We outline our development of methods which embrace aesthetic and instrumental considerations in the evaluation of the work. This challenges the conventional dualisms which underpin qualitative and quantitative methodologies.

The notion of ‘material anchors’ in conceptual blending (Sinha 2005, Hutchins 2005) drives the play based activities in which the children engage while in the immersive environments of the performance space. Highly visual, physical and sensory stimuli such as puppets, objects and simple media (paper, cloth, shadows, light and sound), facilitate the children’s capacity for cognitive processing, anchoring their attention, developing new imaginative ‘blends’ and demonstrating empathic understanding and responses to the various environments they encounter (Outer Space, Under the Sea, Under World, Forest and Arctic).

As well as considering how cognitive approaches have influenced the evaluative methods, the paper also discusses the role of kinesthetic empathy in the training processes we have developed. Our approach emphasises the importance of the practitioner’s embodied engagement in practice based research. Using contemporary performance techniques in the development of intuitive, open and holistic approaches (inspired by the Ting Theatre of Mistakes and its performance training manual) we consider the importance of liveness, open space, risk taking and happy accidents in conjunction with ‘affect regulation’ to the training and practice of the affective theatre practitioner.

Item Type: Conference or workshop item (Paper)
Subjects: P Language and Literature > PN Literature (General) > PN2000 Dramatic representation. The theatre
Divisions: Divisions > Division of Arts and Humanities > School of Arts
Depositing User: Nicola Shaughnessy
Date Deposited: 11 Oct 2012 15:09 UTC
Last Modified: 16 Nov 2021 10:09 UTC
Resource URI: (The current URI for this page, for reference purposes)
Shaughnessy, Nicola:
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