At Circus Starr, our mission is to create accessible community circus events throughout the UK that positively engage with children with physical disabilities, learning difficulties and families from disadvantaged backgrounds. One strand of what we do is work with children with autism.
Since we first launched in 1987, time and again parents would tell us how their autistic child, who could not usually cope with unknown situations, had sat through our entire show mesmerised, or how their child who could get very distressed in crowds had been dancing ringside with their light-up windmill shouting: “come and boogie everyone!”
Even though from the outside we appeared to break all the rules (loud music, lots of people, bangs, surprises) for some reason we were naturally “autism-friendly” and children felt relaxed in our big top. However, because new experiences and environments can provoke anxiety in children on the autistic spectrum, we also had to find a way to prepare those who were too anxious to make it that far.
We wanted to produce an app that could somehow capture and convey the essence, magic and unpredictability of circus for a very literal audience. We needed to prepare a child who didn’t like surprises for a show full of surprises … without ruining the surprise...
“ Our son is autistic. His behaviour can be very challenging in public and there are very few places we can take him for entertainment. Coming to see Circus Starr enables my son to experience not only new wonderful performances, but sit amongst an audience in a Theatre or a Big Top, which teaches him social skills.”
“Social stories and visual supports can be really valuable tools for many people with autism, helping them navigate situations like days out that many of us might take for granted”
Heather Wildsmith, Cultural Development Manager, National Autistic Society
Interesting story - helping children to stay strong and happy whatever life has in store.
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