I developed Collaboration comics as part of my doctoral research. Collaboration comics are comic books that help individuals with severe learning disabilities to communicate their likes, dislikes and aspirations for the future. Two types of collaboration comics were developed during the study. These were my research comic and the young people's transition comics. The research comic is shown below:

The research comic was used to explain the research process to the young people and to gain informed consent. The transition comics communicated the young people's likes and dislikes as well as their aspirations for the future. These comics were presented by the young people at their transition meetings. Transition comics have some similarities with other multi-media transition tools, but what makes them unique is their potential for greater young person involvement.

Comic development

The comics were produced using a computer program called Comic Life. This application has an easy to use interface, which allows the young people select from a range of different templates that change the appearance of the way their comic looks.

Photographs can be imported into the program and dragged and dropped into the comic template. Speech bubbles or caption boxes can be added into the template to annotate the photographs. The process of choosing their own vocabulary was empowering and encouraged the development of self-identity and self-expression.

The Comic Life application was very easy to use and several of the young people were able to operate the program with minimal support. Other multi-media packages are far more complex and the young people require a greater amount of support to produce their transition resources. Comic Life helped several of the young people to be more independent.

Findings

During the meetings the transition comics were a starting point for generating discussion. They helped the young people decide what to talk about and in which order. There were occasions when the young people did not know how to verbally communicate or sign a specific interest, so they found the appropriate picture in their transition comic and showed those at the meeting. The transition comic was used as a low-tech communication aid. The comic also helped the professionals at the meeting to ask the young people questions, as they could already see what topics the young people liked to talk about.

I was able to use the transition comic as a tool for helping the young people to access the meeting: it was a useful visual support. The complex vocabulary associated with transition, was represented in the comic, so I could then show the young people the appropriate symbol when someone spoke using over-complicated terminology.

Evaluation

All of the young people gave positive feedback when they were interviewed about the use of the transition comics during their meeting.

This is the single best resource that my daughter has ever had.

A mother's opinion of the transition comic

Her daughter took her transition comic everywhere with her, including when they were visiting family and friends. The comic had been instrumental in helping her to develop a relationship with her aunt. Previously, the aunt had found it very difficult to communicate with the young person, but found the book helped her to generate a discussion.

The transition social workers and Connexions representatives said that they found the comics useful, as they felt they were able to leave the meeting with a greater understanding of the individual personalities:

The comic is really useful. It will let me put names to faces when I meet the young people again in the future. I feel like I know them a little better. You tend to remember young people when their case has been difficult. I'd rather have a more positive recollection of people.

Socal Worker