New trial enables students with autism to 'talk' their coursework

Posted on 26 May 2011

James Shaddick - UW Newport BA Documentary Film student

Dr Gary Pritchard of the University of Wales has pioneered a new approach that facilitates students with complex learning difficulties in being able to ‘talk’ their research instead of writing it.

Working alongside Alliance Partner the University of Wales Newport, Dr Pritchard has been helping BA Documentary Film students present their final academic thesis orally and visually, while at the same time ensuring the necessary academic rigour.

One of the students taking part in the trial was filmmaker James Shaddick, who has wrestled all his life with his own range of learning challenges, including autism. With the guidance and support of Dr Pritchard, he decided to make his condition the focus of his thesis.

“It was an incredible journey – to delve deep into the issues that I had previously seen as my ‘problems’ actually resulted in me gaining an amazing new insight into autism and its related issues,” said James. “In many ways the experience was life changing and I kind of reinvented how I saw autism – from something embarrassing to actually being something pretty cool.”

James now intends to use his newfound confidence in seeking to establish a career in the media.

Speaking of the project, Dr Pritchard said;

“To see students like James moving from a fear of academic research towards thriving was particularly satisfying. It was a privilege to work with these talented emerging film makers, and especially to help the students to communicate their ideas in a way that played to their strengths rather than creating even more hurdles to jump over.”

Dr Pritchard is a School of Arts and Humanities Faculty member at the University of Wales, who as well as having forged a career in academia, has also held numerous roles in television and print media as a writer, journalist, scriptwriter and filmmaker.


Notes to Editors:

For more information regarding the University of Wales’s newly-formed Faculty, click on:

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