Publication Details

A. Dew, L. Smith, S. Collings & I. Dillon Savage, "Complexity Embodied: Using Body Mapping to Understand Complex Support Needs", Forum: Qualitative Social Research 19 2 (2018) 4-1-4-24.


Arts-based methods reduce reliance on verbal communication. This makes them particularly useful for exploring sensitive and controversial topics, which can often be difficult to articulate verbally, and capturing the experiences and insights of marginalised groups including people with complex support needs. The visual arts-based method of body mapping provides an alternative way for participants to express their views and experiences through non-verbal storytelling. In this article, we report on the adaptation of body mapping to conduct research with two disadvantaged groups: adults with cognitive disability and complex support needs; and young people with complex support needs. We identify the potential of the method to promote participants' choice and control over the research process and the onus on researchers to create and maintain a mutually safe and supportive environment. Body mapping is also identified as a useful practical tool for use by individuals and their supporters. Arts-based methods, including body mapping, have the potential to empower people with complex support needs to engage more fully in research, which provides a greater understanding of their experiences, views, and feelings.



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