An innovative research project using digital stories to support young autistic children's transition from nursery to primary school.

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Professor Sarah Parsons at the Autism Community Research Network (ACoRNs) based at University of Southampton was awarded a Froebel Trust grant to identify effective practices based on Froebelian principles that support the preparation of young autistic children's transition from nursery to primary school.

The research team created ‘I am’ Digital Stories - short films which enable children and young people to introduce themselves to their new school and to tell their own stories.

"A Digital Story is a short video (1-3 minutes) that shows typical behaviours for the child. The stories are based mainly on child-led interests and exploration rather than adult directed prompts or staged activities."
Professor Sarah Parsons, Project Leader

A 'We are' Digital Story created by the family of a young child with autism (available via the ACoRNs website)

Young children’s voices and perspectives are at the centre of this research project. The researchers used digital cameras throughout a nursery school to capture children’s choices, explorations and interactions with staff and other children. Children also used wearable cameras, which captured their interactions and choices.

"The footage from children’s everyday lives at the nursery and from the interviews with parents and staff enabled us to represent each child; their likes, dislikes and the things they found challenging... We feel that we very much captured the children's voices through the project via hours of video footage taken during the 2-3 months before their transition to primary school..."
Professor Sarah Parsons, Project Leader

Impact

"Young autistic children are amongst the most scrutinised and assessed in their everyday lives, often leading to descriptions that focus on their difficulties and challenges rather than on their abilities, strengths and positive experiences." Professor Sarah Parsons

The project highlights the importance of dialogue and communication between children, parents/carers, educators and schools.

“Digital Stories are now one of the ways we show a child’s interests and development to other professionals and parents. Each one is unique and never ceases to amaze and delight its audience. Practitioners are often noting things that have not been noticed during room observations, which expands our knowledge and understanding of the child. It is an important piece of evidence which shows research impacting practice immediately.”
Kathryn Ivil, Manager, Aviary Nursery, Eastleigh

Practice guidance which emerged from this research project has been shared with schools, educators and early years settings across the UK - including at training events and conferences for educators.

A short film made by the project leaders explaining how educators can create an 'I am' video with young children with autism in their school