A young person diagnosed as being on the autistic spectrum constantly asks questions when watching films or theatre shows with a parent to make sense of the emotional and social storyline.

‘What’s happening?’

‘Why does this character say this?’

‘Would someone really feel this?’

The parent, a client of mine, says she is so busy answering this never-ending stream of questions that she cannot relax into the film or show.

It led me to wonder if it might be helpful to have sub-titles (or in the theatre, audio description) that offers the emotional and social context that provides the missing information that an autistic person needs in order to make sense of what is happening.

Cinemas already have ‘autism friendly’ screenings, where the sensory load (sound and light levels, crowds) is reduced and specially selected films are shown.

There are accounts of how autistic children (and their parents) have been able to use films they relate to as stepping stones to developing a greater emotional articulacy. The Life, Animated website arose from the book about a boy called Owen and his favourite Disney animations.

The Disney/Pixar movie Inside Out has been particularly noted as providing understanding of emotions for children with an autistic processing style.

However, there doesn’t seem to be any discussion yet about how to make a wider range of films autism friendly, by filling in the missing social and emotional information that most of us already automatically know.

Do you have personal experience of these situations, either for yourself or with friends and family? If so, what’s your view on whether this might be helpful? Or how might the idea be modified to make it hit the spot?

Are you an organisation working with people who have been diagnosed on the autistic spectrum? Would this idea go some way to improving the quality of life for people who have this unique way of perceiving and processing the world? Are you able to commission a small pilot project to see how useful subtitles or audio descriptions could be?

I’d like to hear from you to get a dialogue going, to inspire some creative thinking (and, hopefully, a trial project). Please do take a moment to comment.