When a 20-year-old with autism wanted a theatre career, his social worker sought help for him to make a video so that potential employers could see beyond his disability.

Stories are a great way to share knowledge in a social context, to engage others as listeners and connect people across communities. The art of storytelling has evolved over thousands of years, from the use of symbols including art and dance, to oral and written forms, and is now being embraced by people through new media, such as audio and video.

In 2012 the Institute for Research and Innovation in Social Services, where I work as media manager, embarked on a storytelling project with Liam Robertson, a 20 year-old with autism, to help him create a video CV.

Liam has a passion to pursue a career in theatre and attends Scottish Youth Theatre. Liam’s social worker was already aware of the power of video to help people with a disability make their case and felt that Liam’s skills and passion for the theatre might be more powerfully portrayed if he told his story on video. Because of the institute’s experience of using audio and video to share knowledge in social services, we were approached to help out.

Our multimedia team arranged a meeting with Liam, his parents and social workers to explain the process and listen to any concerns. We also brought in a freelance director who had experience not only of working with young people, but also of working in professional film and theatre.

Liam, who worked in a Barnardo’s shop and for Cosgrove Care, discussed this work, the classes he attended at Scottish Youth Theatre and Indepen-dance, as well as his interest in film and theatre. This information was used to plan a schedule for shooting at various locations, including Liam’s family home the places he worked and on stage acting.

The team asked Liam to draft a script for filming where he would talk about his interest in film, his storyboards and how he uses Facebook to keep in touch with friends. They also asked him to talk about all aspects his life: his work, his acting and dance

Given Liam’s chosen career, the process of filming was as important as the production of the film itself; for example, the need to shoot the same scene from different angles so that the resulting film could cut to different shots to make it more visually interesting.

While documenting his interest in film and his work experiences, the resulting five-minute video also presents Liam acting out a monologue from Citizen Kane. In summary, the video demonstrates how someone with autism can use video to help others see them and see beyond the disability.

Liam’s social worker made the following comment on its release: “People with disabilities have all sort of skills and abilities, and that’s what needs to be promoted. We need to get beyond seeing the disability, and I think video’s a really good way of doing it.”

Liam’s case illustrates personalisation in practice and value of digital storytelling. He was able to use his story to connect with people. Being involved in the process helped him learn more about his career aspirations.

Since making the DVD, Liam has been accepted for the acting and performance course at Stow College in Glasgow.

You can watch Liam’s story on the institute’s website. The institute has also developed some guidelines on how to create a digital story.

By Michelle Drumm at The Guardian