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A therapeutic approach to learning through creative storytelling

Jessica I. Rutherford (School of the Arts, Loughborough University, Loughborough, UK)

Advances in Dual Diagnosis

ISSN: 1757-0972

Article publication date: 11 January 2019

Issue publication date: 28 February 2019



The purpose of this paper is to provide an overview of a Learning Programme designed around the animation film-making process, contextualising abstract concepts to address the cognitive limitations of children with foetal alcohol spectrum disorders (FASD).


Animation production is tactile, multimodal and multisensory which allows for wide application alongside traditional learning tools, targeting multiple learning pathways with its visual, auditory and kinaesthetic approach. Individuals with FASD require information to be explained in a concrete way to enable them to process and understand. Most information can be drawn, providing a visual to assist the individual, but we must also consider abstract concepts which require further explanation or a series of drawings to display the concepts development. Animation, however, allows us the opportunity to make abstract concepts concrete, contextualising the concept in a visualisation of the child’s story, narrated with their voice and designed to represent their world, in a film produced entirely by them, therefore allowing opportunity for a therapeutic approach to learning through storytelling. This learning tool is designed to be implemented in a specifically designed therapeutic learning environment to enhance the benefits of participation from both educational and therapeutic perspectives.


A review of relevant literature highlights a significant connection between animation, the learning needs of those with FASD and the need for a therapeutic learning environment. This is a proof of concept study, demonstrating the value and potential of animation film making in this new area of practical application. The study closely considers the learning environment from a therapeutic perspective and aims not only to develop a learning tool but to also define the optimum therapeutic learning environment. The study is therefore untested at this stage.

Practical implications

Phase 2 of this ongoing research study seeks to explore additional benefits of participation and engagement with the process in an educational and therapeutic context. Considerations of the therapeutic learning environment will be further explored to determine the optimum setting to support the ongoing learning of this pedagogically bereft (Carpenter, 2011) population. Phase 2 also aims to clarify therapeutic benefits as additional outcomes of participation in this programme.


The proposed learning tool and therapeutic learning environment outlined in this paper is an original contribution to knowledge and if found to be successful, could offer significant opportunities for a therapeutic approach to education for this population and others.



Rutherford, J.I. (2019), "A therapeutic approach to learning through creative storytelling", Advances in Dual Diagnosis, Vol. 12 No. 1/2, pp. 85-98.



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