Funding received to research benefits of ancient myths for children diagnosed with autism

Classical Civilisation lecturer is to undertake research that will help children on the autism spectrum develop social understanding and affective engagement.

Posted: 4 October 2016

image for news story Funding received to research benefits of ancient myths for children diagnosed with autism
Susan Deacy talking about the project in Warsaw
Dr Susan Deacy from the Department of Humanities is part of an international team of scholars awarded €1.5 million funding to explore the role of classics in children's and young adults' contemporary culture.

The five year project brings together six classical civilisation scholars from universities across five continents including Africa and Australia who will all be developing different research strands relating to this theme including children’s literature and mythical education.

Dr Deacy, who won a National Teaching Fellowship for her work in finding sensitive ways to teach difficult subject matters, will undertake research on autism and classical mythology.   
Her research will begin with an academic study of the research relating to autism and ancient myths which will be used to develop workbooks and guides for special educational needs (SEN) teachers who work with children who are diagnosed on the autism spectrum.
Dr Deacy said: “Stories from the ancient world have the potential to be extremely useful tools in helping children and young people express themselves and develop social understanding. This could be because the child has a structure to work within as stories have a beginning, middle and end, but they also have the freedom to apply their own meaning to the story.

“However this is a largely undeveloped area when it comes to the benefits it can have for children who have been diagnosed on the autism spectrum. The guides I will develop with help teachers use stories such as the story of Medusa, who is turned by the goddess Athena into a horrible monster whose look could turn others into stone, as a tool to help the child express themselves. I also hope that these resources will be useful for children with other disabilities and learning differences such as Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder and Dyslexia.”

Dr Sonya Nevin, also from the Department of Humanities at Roehampton, is also a member of the team. Her project, Animating the Ancient World, will see her produce four video animations which are created from the actual scenes which decorate ancient Greek vases. Other outcomes from the project will include three international conferences, student workshops and a research database.

The funding comes from the European Research Council's Excellent Science scheme, designed to help support researchers at the stage during which they are consolidating their own independent research team or programme. The team is led by Katarzyna Marciniak of the University of Warsaw and will begin in October 2016.

The University of Roehampton is ranked third in London for Classical Civilisation (The Guardian University Guide 2016).

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