Bespoke Illustrated Life & Social Sequences

The main focus of Autismine’s work is to create Bespoke Illustrated Life/Social Sequences for the wellbeing of children and young people who have autism.

A BILS is a vivid and intuitive guide through a social situation. Visually appealing and tailor made, a BILS can prepare a young person with autism for a forthcoming event or interaction. By showing clearly what will happen at each stage it can help to alleviate worries, issues and potential for conflict or confusion.

Read some of our case studies...

Autismine creates every BILS to be personal to an individual, avoiding the use of stock imagery. Our artists devise fun and engaging images which utilise an individual’s special interest, if relevant, or a character or topic that is important to them – for example, Super Mario, Lego, buses, flowers or trains. We use a variety of media, including manga comic strips, short animations and 3D printed figures.

Autismine’s BILS have already helped many young people with autism to cope with everyday interactions – as well as more life-changing experiences such as bereavement, family divorce or sibling rivalry. Our work is founded on cognitive behavioural therapy so BILS can be used as part of a positive behaviour management system too.

Our overall aim is to help children and young people with autism – and their families – to overcome barriers, gain skills, and reach new heights of achievement.

Case studies: the effectiveness of BILS

“Alex is 5 years old and has a diagnosis of autism. One of the biggest concerns for Alex’s parents was that at 5 years old he was still wearing nappies and was completely unable to use a toilet. Alex’s teachers at school had started to put pressure on his parents to get him toilet trained, as they said that they were unable to change his nappy while at school. It was decided that we would try a Bespoke Illustrated Life/Social Sequence to try and get Alex toilet trained and to help him understand how to use the toilet. Since Alex’s special interest is Mario brothers, these were incorporated in the story to help motivate Alex. The story was used alongside an Angry Birds reward chart.

Alex’s mum read the story to Alex every day and then tried to encourage him to use the toilet. Although he enjoyed the story because it featured his favourite character, initially it did not seem to be having any impact on Alex’s understanding of using the toilet, but his mum persisted and continued to read it to him every day. After a few weeks Alex was able to communicate that he was scared of falling down the toilet, and so another page was added to the story to help Alex understand that he would not fall.

After many weeks, one day while he was at school, Alex decided to go and use the toilet! This was a huge breakthrough! Gradually Alex started to use the toilet at home also, and for the past few months Alex has been fully toilet trained and is no longer wearing nappies. Alex’s mum believes that the story helped a great deal in helping to toilet train Alex, because the first time he decided to try using the toilet, he knew exactly what to do and was able to tell other people how Mario goes to the toilet.

I would strongly recommend for other parents to try using this approach – having a BILS to help children understand what they are expected to do and incorporating their special interest is a great way to motivate them to engage with it, which in turn helps them to understand the task you want them to do.”

Vicki Smart, Autism West Midlands Family Outreach Coordinator.

The bigger picture: how we engage in autism research.

Autismine is a social enterprise with research at its core. Our immediate goal is to help children and young people with autism to navigate their way through social difficulties, using Bespoke Illustrated Life/Social Sequences (BILS). And then we have a wider aim: to use our work to inform research.

When we are commissioned to create a new BILS for a young person (which can cost as little as £10 read more) our consultation process includes talking to them and their caregivers about the worry, behaviour or challenge that needs to be tackled. We find out about special interests and specific concerns.

Once the BILS is in use, we arrange a follow-up consultation to see how things are progressing. We offer a free edit/adjustment to enhance the young person’s engagement with their BILS. The idea is to develop an ongoing dialogue with the family and use the outcomes to inform a broader understanding of people’s needs. We are always looking to discover what is effective and what else can be done to help.

Analysing the needs and requests of the children and young people we help gives us valuable anecdotal and empirical data. Over time we can use this insight to develop new interventions, inform further studies and even influence government commissioning and social policy for the benefit of people who have autism.

It goes without saying that our service is confidential. We are keen to share the many positive outcomes of BILS through testimonials, but will always work with families to protect names and identities.

Our overarching aim is to help people who have autism to cope with the complexities of modern life, nurture their confidence, and achieve more.

Email: to start a conversation with Autismine today.