Cedar, Lynn, Haythorne, Deborah & Ramsden, Emma

Shine a Light on Autism (SaLoA) - Feasibility study for a Randomised Control Trial (RCT) of Dramatherapy for Children with Autistic Spectrum Disorder (autism) in schools: presentation of preliminary findings

Emma Ramsden, Lynn Cedar & Deborah Haythorne

Roundabout Dramatherapy, UK

This paper will premiere the preliminary findings of the two year feasibility study (2018-2020) funded by the British Association of Dramatherapists which focuses on anxiety reduction for junior aged children on the autism spectrum through engagement in 20 session dramatherapy groups across two research sites.  The study – the first of its kind -  aims to seek proof of concept towards applying for funds to conduct the first randomised control trial in dramatherapy in the UK. 

At this time the field of dramatherapy continues to wrestle with the ‘madness’ of giant obstacles in the form of ‘gold standard’ evidence requiring manualised approaches to this client-led psychodynamic intervention.  Like Don Quixote in undertaking our feasibility study we have answered the ‘call to adventure’, summoning the courage to shine our light and journey towards a truth.  We are holding a balance of idealism and realism in the hopes of revealing the perceived fearful giants to be windmills – machines with the capacity to transform energy and illuminate the acorn we’ve planted and nurture the evidence that grows with it.    

Client voice, agency and assent are key theoretical and ethical concepts underpinning the study’s methodological stance.  The manualised design has been constructed with a particular approach to rigour that is rooted in the established practice of both Roundabout practitioners and evidence in the field of dramatherapy.  The design incorporates the Roundabout-a-story dramatherapy structure inspired by the use of stories in all its forms which is at the heart of our practice at Roundabout in group dramatherapy and is central to the process of engaging with the imagination and a vehicle to hear and respond to the ‘voice of the client’. 

Roundabout is the largest dramatherapy charity in the UK and leaders in the field providing services for more than three decades.  We are proud to be undertaking this innovative research as a voluntary sector organisation working in partnership with, top ranked university, Kings College London and to have further validated the ASC-ASD (Rodgers et al., 2016) outcome measure within our study.   We are also delighted to be delivering our findings to a delegation of arts therapists and aim to use part of the presentation in dialogue with delegates to enter into some collaborative thinking of some of the strengths and limitations for scaling up to a RCT.


Lynn Cedar & Deborah Haythorne are the co-Founders and co-Ceo’s of Roundabout, the largest dramatherapy charity in the UK where they co-manage a team of 25 dramatherapists. Emma Ramsden (PhD) is a practitioner-researcher and together with Emma Godfrey (PhD) Dramatherapist, Psychologist and Senior Lecturer at King’s College London, they are conducting a 2 year feasibility study for a Randomised Control Trial (RCT) of group dramatherapy for children on the autism spectrum focusing on anxiety reduction (funded by BADth).  Cedar is a playback theatre enthusiast; Haythorne has a special interest in working with people with autism and together with Ramsden and Godfrey all have an interest in writing about dramatherapy research and clinical practice focusing on client agency and voice.  All co-applicants are HCPC registered dramatherapists and BADth approved clinical supervisors. 


Recent Publications

2018 Paper presentation BADth annual conference 2018:  conducting a  feasibility study in dramatherapy Shine a Light on Autism (SaLoA). (Haythorne, Cedar, Ramsden, Godfrey)
2017 Keynote speech at BADth Annual Conference (giving voice: listening to what matters.  Spotlight on dramatherapists in a contemporary context)  & AGM, Cirencester, UK. (Ramsden)
Godfrey, E., Aubrey, M., Crockford, S., Haythorne, D., Kordowicz, M. & Ashworth, M. (2018) The development and testing of PSYCHLOPS KIDS: a new child-centred outcome measure, Journal of Child & Adolescent. Mental Health. https://doi.org/10.1111/camh.12271
Haythorne, D. & Seymour, A. eds. (2017) Dramatherapy and Autism. UK, Routledge.
Ramsden, E. & Jones, P. (2011) Ethics, children, education and therapy: vulnerable or empowered. In: Campbell, A., & Broadhead, P., (eds) Working with Children and Young People: Ethical Debates and Practices Across Disciplines and Continents. Germany, Peter Lang.