Abigail Jackson completed her PhD as part of the Transtechnology Research Group at Plymouth University, after receiving AHRC funding via the The 3D3 Centre for Doctoral Training. Previously Abigail completed an Undergraduate Dance Theatre Degree in Dance Theatre, and a Masters of Research dance both being achieved at Plymouth University. Her current research has developed into a multidisciplinary project and she is working as a Senior Research Associate within The University of Bristol’s School of Psychological Science.
Alongside the PhD, Abigail undertook a Post Graduate Certificate in Autism – focusing on children – as a distance-learning course delivered by Birmingham University. This was done so to develop a deeper understanding of the diagnosis from the field of Social Sciences, as well as the Arts. In the latter stages of the PhD she completed a PGCert Therapeutic Play Skills with Lees Beckett University, which enhance her knowledge of play, childhood development, and therapeutic approaches used within education, and is a qualified Therapeutic Play Practitioner. She has historically worked as a movement and dance practitioner in the South West and was based in Plymouth for 10 years. Throughout her academic career she has also sought training in Somatic Movement Practices through, the School of Experiential Learning (SOEL), East-West Shin Somatics and Embody-Move.
The thesis offers insight into an embodied practice informed by childhood development studies, cognitive science, and pedagogy as an iterative approach to develop creative alternatives to the application of solo engagement with technologies in the education of autistic children. Through the diverse experiences enabled by the project’s dual practice and theoretical approach, this work evidences alternative ways to reflect on the education of autistic children, and reports methods that can offer the education sector ways to support children exposed to computer technologies in education through more holistic methods. The thesis advocates for an approach, developed through the practice-research method, that works with computer technologies socially, to engage children, rather than resorting to the commonly seen isolated interactions. The concept of a hybrid offers an alternative to binary, either/or, approaches to consider the role of ICT in special needs education, and instead suggests a more productive triad of approaches premising adaptation over compromise. This triad, suggests three areas of interest; autism, education and technological advances.
By applying techniques such as improvisation, somatic movement techniques and participant observation, the thesis proposes a reconsideration of existing interventions in order to promote holistic development, rather than short-term temporary solutions. The practical research of one-to-one movement interactions, with autistic children, is a method basing its approach at the intersection between traditional interventions and therapies, reliant on human interaction, and more recent technological advances developing as a result of ICT use in schools. The focus on the diagnosis of autism leads the thesis to focus on themes relating to human interaction. Empathy, mimicry and touch are developed as central concerns due to their placement in literature surrounding both childhood development and movement practices. The thesis suggests how Dance and Movement practices may offer insights into adapting such engagements with technologies within the education sector. The research advocates for a hybrid model throughout the education of autistic children. It reports a body of practice-research using movement with autistic children, as the participants, that situates and explores themes of embodiment.