2000 Conference Proceedings

Go to previous article 
Go to next article 
Return to 2000 Table of Contents

Acting Up's Multimedia Profiling (MMP) - A Communication Tool For People With Severe Learning and Severe Multiple Disabilities

Claire Wood, Charles Wood
Acting Up, London, England
(Director John Ladle)
Author: Claire Wood

Multimedia Profiling is a term used by Acting up to describe a computer-based catalogue of a service-user's daily activities and personal history. Using a collection of images, video clips with sound and sound only from the catalogue, the user and service provider together compile and present Multimedia reports that powerfully convey individual issues and support needs.

The underlying theme in Multimedia Profiling is that it is about people coming together to share information and ideas. It is about people and their relationships. By the very nature of multimedia the user is centrally involved in the whole process and in that sense empowered in their relationships with those that support them such as families, careers, advocates, support workers, specialist practitioners and others. Therefore the very nature of making a profile requires time and dedication on behalf of the service provider and those that work with the service User.

What is unique about Multimedia Profiling is that it has evolved from the practice of Creative Communications, a term Acting Up uses to describe a way of tuning in to the non-verbal world of people with profound learning and multiple disabilities by using play, performance and gesture. Its value base is very close to that of Gentle Teaching which emphasises the importance of building and establishing relationships where an individual does not need to feel "in control" of someone they are caring for. In this way it leads towards equal exchange or equal communication.

Over a period of time and as a shared activity a Multimedia Profile builds in to a holistic, user- centred resource that can be accessed at home or in a day or residential centre for all sorts of purposes. Its value rests not only in the ability to share information but also as a self-reflective tool. The very process of looking and looking again helps the user, and those supporting, to breakdown and analyse information whether it be about care practice or relationships and individual communication. MMP combines the immediate experience of hands- on involvement with the distance of planning and reflection - "cool contact"


Acting Up was founded in 1986 and is based in Hackney, London. John Ladle, the founder and director of Acting Up, describes the project as "an integrated, broad-based group or trainers, performers, media artists and people with severe learning disabilities that aims to make positive changes in attitudes and approaches to people with learning disabilities."

Since 1989 the Acting Up team has been researching and developing ways to involve service users more fully in the process of planning their own care. Acting Up has a team of profilers who work with groups of users, their key-workers, managers and others, training them to build their own resources and skills according to the MMP method.

Case Studies

In 1989 Acting Up began with three pilot profiles on three Hackney residents and worked over a period of three years to build a very in depth picture of their lives. Many sessions were recorded with service-users reviewing photos and videos of so many aspects of their lives. Then further editing sessions led to review sessions on the computer involving key-workers, family members, practitioners and sometimes distant relatives to come and review the edited material. Then from these sessions more voice-overs were captured of magic memories and surprising information. The depth of insight one is beginning to collate has enormous impact on, for example, a new agency worker, or specialist practitioner, not to mention the relief for a family member to use a tool that can say what they have said a hundred times before. A tool that sometimes expresses it a hundred times better because the listener can see for their own eyes the importance of allowing Peter to push himself in his chair and what this means to him. In the words of his sister "It gives him a sense of independence and control." There are so many different way of involving the user and so many examples of Multimedia Profiling being used in different residential homes and day activities centres some of which we will demonstrate in this presentation. Below I have chosen three different uses of MMP.


One example was the involvement of Linda's key-worker as an advocate with the aim to change attitude amongst the agency staff. Many staff members found it difficult to feed Linda, as she would just clench her teeth and not eat. This was a constant worry for her Key-worker who felt many agency staff did not understand the importance of relating equally to Linda and the impact that had on her eating. In Linda's planning meeting it became clear that by making a multimedia report that focused on Linda's alertness and awareness, often expressed through her eye movement, that many staff could see and hear for themselves the importance of being tuned in.


With Pauline many issues had arisen from her catalogue but it seemed important to focus on her communication. So we started to review the catalogue on the computer using sophisticated switching devices. The switch allowed Pauline to make choices. For example we would review a video clip of her swimming and then she would press the switch and she could chose to "Not see it again" or "I want to see it again". One support worker had previously scanned an image ( without Pauline's knowledge) of her naked in a bath, when Pauline saw this she frowned immediately and very clearly made the choice "No I do not want to see that again" Other times she made choices that did not always tally with her facial expression which started to emphasise our tokenistic way of reading her and the tendency to make assumptions.

Charles Wood

Charles Wood uses the MMP process for the purposes of self-representation in planning. He has over a period of three years not only built up his own personal profile but gone on to make a Moving On report to assist his social worker and future residential manager to understand his needs and wants. He will explain the impact this profile has had on the people involved in his life in this presentation.

Further Development

In the future we see ourselves taking advantage of the increasing range, power and falling cost of multimedia technology to make MMP even more widely available. Acting Up is undertaking a national program of training and dissemination focusing particularly on MMP development within organisations that provide services. We will also be looking at the use of a digital networks to allow people with communication difficulties to use the language of Multimedia to share information about their likes and to empower them to take an active part in planning their own services

The Service User's Multimedia Profiling checklist

We have comprised a checklist for any one wanting to make MMP.


The Creative Bits, The Social Impacts of the Arts Using Digital Technology, A report for the Carnegie UK Trust by Owen Kelly and Eva Wojdat, Comedia, 1997

Spot the New User Friendly Filing Cabinet, Fast Forward by John Ladle, 1995/96

Special Educational Needs in the 20th Century, Jenny Corbett , Senior Lecturer at the University of London in the Department of Psychology and Special Needs.

Multimedia Profiling- aiding person centred planning, Sound track Newsletter (NDT) 1997 by Acting Up

Beyond Gentle Teaching, A Nonaversive Approach to helping Those in Need by John J. Magee and Frank Menolascino

Go to previous article 
Go to next article 
Return to 2000 Table of Contents 
Return to Table of Proceedings

Reprinted with author(s) permission. Author(s) retain copyright.