[Multimodality Talks series] Rethinking play and ‘play deficits’ in autism through multimodal analysis of playground video data

Date and Time: Fri, May 19, 2023, 12:00 PM – 1:30 PM BST

Speaker: Dr Lauran Doak, Nottingham Trent University, UK

Place: online via Zoom (register to receive the link)

To attend the talk please register here: https://www.eventbrite.co.uk/e/multimodality-talks-lauran-doak-tickets-477350356767

To watch the recorded talk, please see here: https://ucl.zoom.us/rec/share/jrfOZG9WzKVE2ZXPjmXWWvrCJjUnBgjSr8wvwf_7SZxN0kzbmgn3QSOqMPN0VoQ.zOZvvQgiNMXK8jE0.


How do children with autism and minimal spoken language play together? Is their play ‘abnormal’, ‘deficient’, in need of remediation?

In this presentation Dr Lauran Doak from Nottingham Trent University, UK explores a multimodal approach to understanding autistic play. Drawing on her research in a special school classroom in England, she presents a short excerpt of playground video data which is transcribed using annotated video stills. A multimodal reading of the interaction suggests notably less spoken language than a typical mainstream playground yet also many common features: pleasure and fun, invitations to play being met with both acceptance and rejection, frustration arising from rejection, exploration of the affordances of available items, physical play and negotiations over shared resources. The extract demonstrates how such features of play are realised by the children through embodied action including eye gaze, postural and proxemic shifts, non-verbal vocalisations, facial expressions and more.

This fragment of playground data is then used as a springboard for discussion of wider questions around autism, disability and play. To what extent does a multimodal reading of interaction trouble accepted diagnostic accounts of ‘difficulties in sharing imaginative play or in making friends … absence of interest in peers?’ (APA, 2013). Should we view the relative absence of spoken language in the children’s multimodal play repertoire as a developmental cause for concern? Should we embrace freely chosen forms of play as intrinsically satisfying to the child whether or not they are considered developmentally normative? Lauran will explore these questions drawing on research from the fields of autism, play, multimodality and Disability Studies.

About the speaker

Dr Lauran Doak is a Lecturer in the Institute of Education, teaching in the field of Special & Inclusive Education. She has particular interests in researching the multimodal communication of children described as ‘minimally verbal’ or ‘non-verbal’ and the interplay between formal communication strategies (Augmentative & Alternative Communication, or AAC) and idiosyncratic embodied communication. She can be found on Twitter @LauranDoak.



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