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KS3 English: A is for Autism (1992)

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

Main image of KS3 English: A is for Autism (1992)
Author Peter Mathershaw
Topic'Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night-time'
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The rich and evocative use of sound and image in A is for Autism gives the audience a rare glimpse of the very private and personal worlds of autistic children and adults, particularly their sensory responses to and experiences of the world.

A is for Autism is an incredibly dense film that could be used in English as well as Citizenship to explore a huge range of issues. It offers teachers a way in to discussing this complex condition as well as the broader issues of disability and difference and is also a fantastic example of the innovative way that moving images can be used to convey a range of different perspectives.

This lesson idea uses the film as the starting point for considering the unusual behaviour of the protagonist and narrator of the novel 'The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night-Time', Christopher Boone. The lesson is based on the assumption that students will have read as far as chapter 31.

Christopher has Asperger's Syndrome, with which many students are unfamiliar. His behaviour, actions, thought processes and speech appear unusual and can make the story difficult for some students to follow. Asperger's Syndrome is considered to be part of the autistic spectrum and, like Autism, is often characterised by deficiencies in social and communication skills. This film is interesting as the experiences of the people who contribute to the collage closely echo the behaviour and characteristics of Christopher Boone.

Lesson Objective

  • Use the film to develop their understanding of Christopher Boone's character.
  • To consider how the various ways in which moving images can be used to convey both emotion and information


Begin by reviewing the situation faced by Christopher in chapters 11-31 (Christopher assaults a police officer because he touched him). Ask students to discuss how they might have reacted in a similar situation and compare this with Christopher's response.

Ask students to divide a page into two columns. As they volunteer information about other unusual aspects of Christopher's character, students should note make notes about his behaviour in one column.


Main Attraction

Why does Christopher behave in the way he does? Even if some students know that Christopher has Asperger's Syndrome because they have read the blurb, they may not understand it. Before watching A is for Autism, students will need a basic description of autism and its relationship to Asperger's Syndrome making sure they are aware that the term 'autism' refers to a broad spectrum of disorders with combinations of symptoms manifesting in a variety of ways in different individuals. They might also benefit from understanding that A is for Autism was a collaboration with a number of autistic people who described their experiences to the filmmaker and that it uses their illustrations as the basis for the animation, as well as their voices.More able students might be given time to read through the A is for Autism analysis of the film from the main Screenonline site.

While watching the film, ask students to note down similar behaviours that they hear about or see in the film in the second column. This should lead to a whole class discussion, with ideas being collated on the board, where students identify some of the similarities and differences between the behaviour and feelings described by contributors to the film and those of Christopher.

Using their notes as a framework, challenge students to write a paragraph using information and examples from the film to explain Christopher's behaviour and actions between the chapters 11-31 (using quotes from the text to support their ideas).


End Credits

Encourage students to think about the film in a little more detail. How useful do they think it was in helping them better understand Christopher Boone? The director referred to the film as 'an animated documentary'? How is the film different to 'typical' documentaries and why?


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)

Explore the effectiveness of film as a means to communicate autism