Grant holder
Professor Sarah Parsons, University of Southampton
Project status

A research project which captured, through digital storytelling, the school transition experience of five young autistic children and their families.

Project Summary

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. Consequently, much discussion about autistic children tends to forget that they are children first.

While research has considered the transitions of autistic children at later stages, there is almost no research focusing on the transition from nursery to primary school. There is also very limited representation of children’s voices and experiences being explored, promoted, and valued directly as evidence in their own right.

Our project was co-produced with practitioners, families, and children. The project captured, through digital storytelling, the experiences and perspectives of five young autistic children (aged 4 years), and their families, as the children prepared to transition from nursery to primary school.

This project followed the five children during the months before their transition, placing the children’s voices and perspectives at the centre of the research through highlighting their unique trajectories via individual digital stories. The stories were captured via video cameras and individual wearcams, which provided fascinating insights into children’s interactions and play. The stories also involved parents and nursery staff, and provide demonstrations of Froebelian principles and practices for supporting autistic children’s everyday transitions as well as their move to primary school.

This project is part of the Autism Community Research Network at Southampton ACoRNS which brings together researchers and practitioners to jointly identify and construct a research agenda that is mutually informed by, and informing of, practice.

Case study

An educator in Scotland shares a narrative account of the impact of introducing ‘I AM… Digital Stories’ into their nursery school. An article shared by Froebelian Futures (June 2023)

Read it now

Here are some real life examples of ‘I am’ Digital Stories and ‘We are’ virtual tours from the Our Stories Project. The ‘I am’ Digital Stories enable children and young people to introduce themselves and to tell their stories. You can find more information about the ‘I am’ Digital Stories on the ACoRNS website.

A 'We are' Digital Story created by the family of a young autistic child

Project objectives

1. Capture the voices (experiences, perspectives, interactions) of young children with autism as they prepared for, and made, the transition from nursery to primary school

2. Promote the perspectives of young children with autism, captured via digital stories, as valid evidence of experiences in their own right

3. Identify effective practices, based on Froebelian principles, that support the preparation of young children with autism for transitions from nursery to primary school

4. Utilise the methodology of artefacts of digital story creation as tools for sharing and promoting knowledge and understanding about effective practices for transition of children with autism

5. Share the methodology and outcomes of the project online in order to inform and enable schools to engage with their own digital story creation

Download a copy of the Digital Story Guides guidance, Parsons, 2019

Further details, videos and resources can also be found on the Autism Transitions website and ACoRNS Southampton website.

Staff version
Young person version

Research documents

Digital Story Guidance for educators, parents and carers
Final Report Research Grant Feb 2019 Sarah Parsons