BFI logo











Screenonline banner
KS3 English: A is for Autism (1992)

Explore the effectiveness of film as a means to communicate autism

Main image of KS3 English: A is for Autism (1992)
AuthorElizabeth Humphreys
TopicNarrative techniques, autobiography, Mark Haddon's The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night Time
Show full lesson spec

A is for Autism is an 'autobiographical' collage of drawings, action sequences and voice-overs giving an honest and insightful glimpse into the world of autism.

This lesson idea treats the film as another form of 'autobiography' and asks students to consider how an 'autistic world' might be (more) effectively expressed in film. The lesson therefore relies on an understanding of written autobiography and narrative techniques and will develop an understanding of these terms in film. Ideally, students will have some prior knowledge of autism.

Lesson Objective

To consider whether film might be a more effective medium than written text for expressing an 'autobiography of autism.'



Students should have some prior knowledge of the terms 'autobiography' and 'first person narrative.' You might want to brainstorm features of an 'autobiography' as a class and keep on the board to refer back to.

Play the film to the class without showing them the images. It might be useful for them to have a transcript as well (or use the transcript instead of listening to the film.) Draw the parallel between the written word in books and the spoken word on film.

While listening, ask students to identify the narrators' sex, age and any other useful information they can come up with from listening to the voices extremely carefully.

Key questions: Who is the narrator? Why?

  • What brings all the voices together? / What might they have in common?
  • Is this film an autobiography?

In discussion, try to avoid 'definite' answers; you will need to draw out that it could be possible to bring together several 'individual narratives' and weave them into a broader perspective, a sort of 'autobiography of autism.'


Main Attraction

Tell students that they will be watching the whole film. Ask them to predict what sorts of images might accompany the soundtrack they have already heard; remind them that the director is trying to conjure up the chaotic world of autism - How might he best do that?

Divide students into 'expert groups' and 'home groups' (NB. each student will have a number and a letter and belong to both a home group and an expert group - this is also known as 'jig-sawing.')

In expert groups, give each group a different feature to focus on: drawn images/ animation, use of colour, music, voice overs, real-action sequences. (They will need scaffolding to focus their attention.) Watch the film the whole way through, paying particularly close attention to the expert group focus. Students should be given time to make notes on how their focus helps create an 'autobiography of autism.'

Students then return to their 'home groups' and each student reports back on their expert findings. The idea is that the 'expert' teaches the rest of their home group about their focus so everyone ends up knowing about everything!

Try to make sure that as a group, they are pulling their findings together and showing how the film as a whole serves as an effective type of autobiography. It is the layering of all these techniques which makes it so effective.


End Credits

On A3 paper, each group should write a statement answering the question:

  • Is film a more effective medium than text for expressing an 'autobiography of autism?'

Higher levels should be able to show both sides i.e. how it could be considered more or less effective and the reasons why.

Groups present their statements to the rest of the class.


External Links

Video Clips
Complete film (11:12)
Downloadable Teaching Resources

Related Films and TV programmes

Thumbnail image of A is for Autism (1992)A is for Autism (1992)

Read more about this film

See also

Thumbnail image of KS3 English: A is for Autism (1992)KS3 English: A is for Autism (1992)

Exploring autism and 'The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night-time'