Difficulty with communication is one of the hallmarks of autism, no matter where a person sits on the spectrum. Fortunately there are strategies, games and even ingenious gadgets to help people express themselves more easily and connect with the world around them.
HUE sells funky, flexible cameras that plug into a computer, allowing parents, teachers and kids of all abilities to make films or give presentations. However, one of the firm’s products – the HUE Animation Studio – has proved to be a big hit with children on the autistic spectrum. HUE Animation Studio is a kit – consisting of a camera with a microphone, software and a colourful book of ideas – enabling people to make stop-motion animations.
As fans of Wallace and Gromit or Morph will know, this technique involves filming an object frame by frame, moving it very slightly each time so that it appears to move. “It’s a fantastic tool for encouraging communication,” says Cathy Doel, HUE’s marketing manager. “There are so many roles involved in making an animation – using your imagination to create a story, making the models, doing the lighting and adding a soundtrack.
It’s a great way to get kids to collaborate, though it’s also possible for them to make something by themselves. There are other cameras out there,” she adds, “but the unique, bendy design of our products makes the process so much easier.” Because stop-motion requires precision, it helps to encourage dexterity, Doel points out, while the visual nature of the activity and the intense concentration required play to autistic people’s strengths.
“ I have used HUE Animation software and cameras with my class of students who have autism and severe learning difficulties. They were able to create their own short movies with minimal support – the activity also encouraged them to work cooperatively, something that they can find very challenging. They were all very pleased with the results which we put onto our MLE to share with families.”Sally Paveley (The Bridge School)
Animation can also be used by teachers to supplement almost any classroom activity – illustrating a historical event, for example, or showing how fractions work. With the huge increase in home-schooling, the kit could also benefit families following that route.