Perspective-Taking Through Film: Educating Pre-Service and In-Service Teachers on Autism Spectrum Disorders

Friday, November 1, 2013
First author:
Kelleher J.
Belonging: Strenghts & Barriers II

Isabelle Farrington School of Education, Sacred Heart University, Fairfield, Connecticut, USA

All authors:

Jacqueline Kelleher 

Social Inclusion & Representation
autism, teacher education, perspective-taking


Approximately one out of every ten students will require special education sometime during his or her school life in the United States.  Regular classroom teachers will have children with disabilities in their classes; therefore, preparation for the various educational needs of all students is essential for those interested in practicing the teaching profession if they are to ensure inclusive environments for all students. In order to design and implement instruction effectively, it is essential for teachers to gain an understanding of the nature of each child’s disability and subsequent needs. Educators will be able to accomplish this level of differentiation for students with disabilities upon developing a sense of perspective about how a disability affects physical, psychosocial, emotional, and cognitive growth. Further, teachers will improve outcomes for children when they strive to build inclusive classrooms that foster a strong sense of belonging to a learning community. Teachers are instrumental in creating and maintaining inclusive, meaningful learning environments, which lead to belonging and acceptance in a classroom community. In order to effectively build inclusive classrooms, teachers benefit if they can deepen their understanding and experience what it's like to have a disability. Schools can increase a sense of belonging for all students through teacher-student relationships and by actively and meaningfully involving all students in the classroom and the school community. The key to ensuring this happens is to train faculty, staff, and administrators well using a perspective-taking approach. Unfortunately, there are significant difficulties in locating media to share with pre-service and in-service teachers concerning autism spectrum disorders. This project looks at preparing teachers to more effectively create the connected classroom through teacher training using media. The film developed for this project shows a first person perspective of having autism and being a student in a regular education classroom. Issues surrounding inclusion are considered, as well as inclusive practices, models and strategies.


This study takes place in multiple, pre-professional and advanced teacher special education classes over an 18-month period. Participants viewed a film focused on children and youth with autism spectrum disorders. There were specific methods used for film development, film field-testing, and post-testing of teachers and teacher candidates viewing the final film segment. This presentation describes the process of producing a film of perspective-taking genre as well as findings from 500 teacher participants on a post-test instrument, and their feedback responses regarding the content viewed. The film was demonstrated in class, a post-test was conducted, and a reflective discussion ensued.


Five hundred pre-service and in-service teachers watched the ten minute film. Immediately following, participants completed a 10 item assessment on the lecture they viewed.

Additionally, participants were asked to reflect on their own learning given the content of the film and information presented. Participants failed on items related to academic-focused detail and exceeded in superflous detail that represented items children and youth with ASD may focus on in a general education classroom. Qualitative data from open-ended responses and post-viewing dialogue demonstrated improved perspective-taking with respect to children and youth with ASD.


This project focused on the development and dissemination of an instructional case study film for use in a special education course for general education teachers. As a result of the completion and dissemination of this instructional video on autism, teacher candidates and advanced teachers demonstrated knowledge of the characteristics portrayed by children and youth with autism. Further there was evidence of strengthened perspective-taking skills concerning individuals with exceptional needs. Results showed clearly that through this approach, teachers were able to deepen their understanding about the deficit areas and the need for ensuring accommodations and modifications for students on the spectrum. Post-test results and feedback is described in the presentation, including views on what strategies can be used to help students with autism feel part of the classroom community.