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Edu-LARP and the imagination of Autism

Edu-LARP and the imagination of Autism

We have thrown the plot to the wind this last few weeks or so.

Many of Seedling’s Edu-LARP sessions are, or at least have been, plot driven and linear. We have noticed however that many of our students (players) are beginning to develop complex back stories or side plots of their own. Many of our students have identified SEN and a large percentage have ASD.

So over the last few weeks, we have tried no plot, just the arrival of characters who have their own purpose and objectives, objectives and purpose that are not linked to or indeed, need to be linked to the players.

How would our players react?

Would plot arise from our players?

Were our players dependant on our input and guidance for play and therefore would learning continue without the original set parameters?

Outside of Seedling’s Edu-LARP work, in the “real world” of our own LARP games, there is precedent for this approach. I have always promoted and cherished the concept of free form larp, with no predetermined plot line.

How would our Edu-LARP players cope?

Could they take the lead in developing the complex imaginary world of the game? A world in which they would have to imagine and create, their own purpose and objectives for their characters. Our students (players) range in age KS2 through to KS4.

I have worked as a teacher for over thirty years; often with students who have SEN, many of whom have been diagnosed ASD. I am a father of an adult daughter who was diagnosed with autism at the age of fourteen. In recent years my work, particularly my Edu-LARP work, has been more and more directed towards students who are viewed as having particularly challenging behaviours. Many of these have diagnosis such as ASD/ ADHD etc.

I have recently paid more attention to the academic position on autism and imagination.

What I have discovered is that there is a large body of evidence, which can be interpreted as suggesting people with ASD have a “deficit” or have “impaired” imagination in some areas. In fairness I should note that many of the later studies I found, do seem to be challenging, or at least questioning this position.


“individuals with deficits in imagination”

Jennifer L Barnes


“specific imagination deficit in children with ASD”



“executive functions and imaginations are impaired with ASD”

HJ Ferguson

There is even a test I have found, ‘Two Factor Imagination Scale’. If you look at the average results on this test, it appears to suggest that people with ASD “have low spontaneous imagination”.

You can find and take this test online.

There is a wealth of literacy and ideas on this topic therefore I am drawing no definitive conclusions as yet, but I have learnt two things for certain.

1 Academia is at the very least asking questions about the imagination of people with ASD.

2 Some findings suggest that people with ASD, have a “deficit” or “impaired” imagination.

Let me here declare my own bias and position. I have a daughter with autism who, in my opinion has a wonderful imagination. Likewise, the anecdotal evidence of my Edu-LARP work suggests to me, that my students, including those diagnosed ASD, have very active and healthy imaginations.

In conclusion I have two questions;

1 If you have a diagnosis or are awaiting a diagnosis or believe you are undiagnosed with autism: do you consider yourself to have an impaired or deficit imagination?

2 If you have a diagnosis or are awaiting a diagnosis or believe you undiagnosed with autism and you play LARP games, do you think that your imagination has aided or hindered your play?

Any comments and replies will be treated confidentially.

1 Comment

Harmony Birch
Harmony Birch
Feb 08, 2022

Quite simply I may have autism but I do not have a deficit in imagination and I believe my imagination aids my LARP play..

Interestingly I do struggle to visualise pictures in my head, aphantasia I believe it is called. But my imagination functions perfectly well with thoughts and concepts.

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