Woman in a colourful blanket
Picture by Timothy Eberly

Imagining Autism – CPD (Continuing Professional Development) Training for professionals, carers and parents

Imagining Autism (iA) provides expert CPD training for organisations who work with autistic people, schools, parents and carers. The iA CPD training is the result of research conducted by the University of Kent (2011-14). The final evaluation showed the benefits of iA’s unique use of theatrical, multi-sensory and immersive techniques especially in relation to communication, emotion recognition and peer interaction. The play-based approaches enable participants to engage imaginatively with a range of interactive media (puppetry, objects, costume) and allows for learning to be responsive to autistic people’s interests. This can lead to increases in social confidence and expressive language, reducing stressed behaviour and providing focus in work and home settings. The project was developed by Prof Nicola Shaughnessy and Dr Melissa Trimingham, both of whom have personal as well professional interests in autism, alongside senior psychologists at the University of Kent (Professor Julie-Beadle-Brown and Professor David Wilkinson). iA immerses children in a variety of carefully constructed imaginary, sensory worlds (outer space; forest; under the city; under the sea; and arctic). The methods have been trialled and evaluated in a range of educational and community settings, leading to the current iA CPD training programme.  Autistic self-advocates are involved with our CPD training  and help to deliver it.

What can iA CPD training offer?

There are a number of training options available and they are flexible enough to suit all organisations working with autistic people and parents/carers of autistic children and adults. The training ranges from one day to five full days and can be tailored to suit your needs, from the following one-day choices:

Perceiving Differently – exercises and workshops to promote empathy and understanding of autism, ‘walking in somebody else’s shoes’.

Communicating Differently – letting autistic participants take the lead; using humour; picking up on non-verbal cues; accepting offers for contact, play and exploration

Puppetry – using puppets and objects to enhance emotional resilience, extending creativity and imagination, and as a tool for avoiding and managing stressed behaviours.

Sensing Environments – engaging children with multi-sensory activities (sound, texture, light, smells, touch, costume) using objects and materials we find in the home and classroom.

Building your own iA ‘pod’ – how to set up a temporary immersive environment using everyday materials, and how to use it effectively.

Learning Objectives:

  • Course participants will practice using creative techniques for managing stressed behaviours
  • Course participants will build confidence in using creative strategies to improve student wellbeing and aid communication and play
  • Course participants will feel empowered to use creativity at work/home


Students on the iA pod experience at Beacon School, Folkestone, Kent:

‘Happy….gave me goosebumps…’

‘Enjoyed spending time with the alien and going into the alien’s cave.  Nervous about going in but enjoyed it’

‘We went to Jupiter… it was happy’

‘Fun, can we do it again? When can I come to the ship again?’

‘I wanted to stay forever….I liked saving the Captain.’


Staff on the CPD training at Beacon School, Folkestone, Kent:

‘Very well delivered’

‘Learning through doing and very interactive. Lots of ideas and useful information about how this could be used in class’

‘Very interactive. Learnt a new skill set’

‘Was fun and informative.  Easy to stay interested’ ‘Amazing!’

If you are interested in booking training please contact imaginingautism@kent.ac.uk or call 01227 823560/827516