This week’s blog article was written by Stephen McHugh, who runs the blog Stephen’s Evolution.
Stephen is a blogger with Asperger’s (a form of autism) who likes creativity, science and music. His condition affects the way he interacts with the world around him. The goal of his blog is to give an idea of how to manage this condition.
In this latest blog post, Stephen discusses how he thinks storytelling with Immersive Reality could help with the education of autistic children. He discusses this in conjunction with his personal experiences. Read his full article below.
Technology has certainly evolved over the past number of years. I’ve already lived long enough to see how changes to it have impacted on the ways we live and do things. And there is one type of technology which has caught my eye in relatively recent times. It is known as Immersive Reality.
On this occasion, I aim to talk about the impact of using it in conjunction with storytelling, and how this may have been ideal for someone like me when I was young.
I’ve never experienced this Immersive Reality technology yet, but from what I’ve heard and read about it, it has great potential to positively impact the education of children with Special Educational Needs (SEN). I’ve already written an earlier post about how this technology could help with learning in other subjects.
Having stunning and engaging scenes can create the feelings of one being there where one is able to roam about and interact. It can give one a sense of adventure and a voyage of discovery, particularly in a new environment that is of interest to them. This may increase one’s ability to think up new ideas for scenes in their own stories.
Losing concentration can be an issue for those with autism, including in a classroom as from my personal experiences. It is in these settings where they may be interested in their own world more than what’s actually going on around them. By getting one in the habit of being more engaged may lead to increased concentration in the classroom.
In case you don’t know, I had delayed speech and language development, and used to take literal views of language, but not so much nowadays.
And it is the use of interactive scenes in a situation like this that can, for me, be useful in helping those with autism spectrum disorders try to understand idioms more easily. An example here can be linked to the idiom ‘Searching for the needle in the haystack’. Here, one can be faced with a large stack of hay and be asked to see if they can find the needle somewhere within it.
It is quite likely they may spend quite some time trying to find the needle, giving them a good idea of how difficult it can be to find a needle in the big haystack itself in a visual sense. Consequently this could go a long way to helping them to understand the idiom itself.
Stephen has also written a blog post which includes a series of short stories to help those with autism and language and speech development delays to understand idioms more easily. An example is below:
I imagine that in each short story a pandemic is taking place. And in each story one character is supposed to guide another in understanding the idioms.
Readers are also welcome to try and picture what they\’re reading and draw their own visualisations. And they\’re welcome to think up characters from a wide range of ethnicities and other backgrounds. The aim of this is to show that everybody is equal.
A Piece of Cake
The world has been going through a pandemic. A potentially lethal virus has spread throughout it, disrupting lives in many ways. One of these ways was not being able to attend important events, birthday parties included.
But one day lockdown restrictions are eased, allowing large gatherings again. And on the day restrictions were eased, plans were almost in place for a birthday party. There was only one thing missing, a cake.
Character 1: Fancy helping me to bake a cake for today’s birthday celebration?
Character 2: I don’t know, I’ve never baked a cake before.
Character 1: Don’t worry, we’ll both work on it together and I’ll show you some useful techniques.
And so characters 1 and 2 got working on making the cake. A short while later, a delicious looking cake was baked, nicely decorated, and everything was now ready for the party.
Character 2: I never realised how easy that was.
Character 1: Yes, just like a piece of cake.
These short stories are perfect for helping people to understand different idioms, as many people with autism and other learning difficulties can struggle to understand things such as this, as they can take things very literally. The full blog post about idioms can be found here.
When I was young, I got interested in the Aerobie Flying Ring, since it could potentially fly many hundreds of feet before landing again.
To get me into stories, my mum once made up a story about how I unexpectedly got back an Aerobie Flying Ring that I thought was lost and gone forever. Here, I’d have quite liked the idea of doing a throwing motion, and seeing the ring flying off into the distance. Later, the ring would come back to me against the odds, via a bird dropping it. I would pretend to be catching it.
By telling stories in visual ways, allowing interaction, and especially in conjunction with any interests, one may be encouraged to get more into reading and writing.
Boosts in Creativity
Children should have opportunities for drawing and painting to create their own pieces of artwork for scenes as part of any creative writing projects. Such approaches may even lead to increased creativity.
Other potential tasks could include having such pieces of artwork ready, where one could describe what was going on in them in their own words. This can help with the development of creative writing skills.
This reminds me of when my mum once found me illustrations and encouraged me to do this with them. Over time, my writing became less repetitive and confused, and more logical and descriptive. And similar progress, I believe, could happen with other children with immersive storytelling.
In addition, children could, and should be encouraged to try and visualise images in a story they’re reading. I encourage one to do this in one of my earlier blog posts about how to understand idioms from an autistic person’s point of view in the form of short stories.
Using Immersive Reality for storytelling could help children get more into reading and listening more, leading to improvements in their language skills and general understanding of the world around them. Communication skills such as speaking and writing could be included here too.
Being on the autism spectrum myself, I would have been excited to try out a technology like this if it had been available when I was young, and see its impact on my education.
Let me know your thoughts on this new development concerning storytelling with immersive technology, and whether or not you plan to use it.
by Stephen McHugh
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