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Autism Award Nomination

Circus Starr's ground-breaking new app Show and Tell has been shortlisted as a finalist in the Best New Technological Innovation category of the National Autistic Society’s (NAS) Autism Professionals Awards 2015.

Circus Starr is up against the NAS’ Choices App for an award that recognises inspiring teams or organisations that have come up with creative new technology that helps improve the quality of life for people with autism. The winner will be revealed on 3rd March at a prestigious Awards Ceremony Dinner, which is sponsored by Axcis Education Recruitment, and held on the first night of the NAS’s Professional Conference at Harrogate’s International Centre. 

Show and Tell is an interactive visual story app for children with autism that can be adapted and tailored to suit the needs of each individual in preparation for a trip to the circus.

Carol Povey, Director of the NAS’ Centre for Autism, said:

"The autism community gets together once a year to recognise individuals and services, like Circus Starr, doing ground-breaking work in the field of autism and improving the lives of people with the disability.

“The calibre, variety and sheer number of nominations we received is astounding and Circus Starr has done remarkably well to stand out. We hope their achievement will inspire other organisations to improve their own practices and go that extra mile to improve the lives of people with autism across the UK.”

The app helps children prepare for events that may otherwise cause anxiety (or non-attendance) through a colourful mix of live circus action images, exclusive behind the scene footage, audio clips and captions, giving them a virtual ringside seat.

“Circus Starr is thrilled to have been recognised for our pioneering work in this field. For 28 years our touring circus of professional artists have mesmerised thousands of disadvantaged, disabled and vulnerable children” explains Circus Starr Director, Neville Wilson.

He continues, “We pride ourselves on creating a ‘relaxed performance’ environment where parents know that their child’s behaviour won’t be an issue, meaning the whole family can sit back and enjoy a shared social experience.”

Inspired by the established and successful ‘Social Story’ ™ concept, the app is both highly interactive and adaptable. Children using the app can familiarise themselves with the Big Top experience and develop coping strategies for this unique environment. After the show, children can personalise their circus story with uploaded images, footage and text of their own to create a lasting memory.   

Show and Tell is practical and transferrable to other arts organisations and provides the blueprint for an infinite range of support tools that will allow children and adults with autism to access and enjoy the arts (and other unknown situations) in a way that has not been possible until now.

The app is free of charge to download and available on iPad, iPhone and iPod and has had some great feedback from parents:

“I’ve been trying to get this child to the circus for ten years. Now thanks to your app, we made it!”

“The sight of her…will stay with me always, she was so relaxed and completely carefree which we do not often see”

Circus Starr was shortlisted by a panel of 11 autism experts who judged them on their innovation, creativity, impact and sustainability. It is currently seeking further funding to produce a version for android devices, as well as developing future uses for the app that will help with challenging events such as a trip to the dentist or starting at a new school. 

Show and Tell has been produced by charitable arts organisation Circus Starr in collaboration with Dr Tracy Piper-Wright (University of Chester), technical partner Therapy Box, in association with the National Autistic Society.

Supported by the Digital R&D Fund for the Arts – Nesta, Arts & Humanities Research Council and public funding by the National Lottery through Arts Council England.


For more information on the story behind the app and Circus Starr, please contact

Cath Logan at cath@circus-starr.org.uk


Show and Tell on Facebook 

Show and Tell on Twitter @CircusApp 


Notes to Editors:

CIRCUS STARR is a world class, touring circus featuring acrobats, dancers and entertainers from across the globe. It is also an independent, charitable organisation that supports disabled, underprivileged and vulnerable children across the UK through a 75 venue tour held three times a year.

Circus Starr operates a unique Donated Ticket Programme that enables thousands of children to attend free circus shows thanks to the generous support of local businesses who, in turn, enjoy the opportunity to ‘give back’ to their communities. It works closely with parents, foster parents, teachers, Local Authorities and others caring for or working with disabled children or children and young people with statements of Special Educational Needs.  The donated tickets provided are distributed to over 3,500 children’s charities and organisations throughout the UK. 

Circus Starr launched as a Social Enterprise and became a Community Interest Company (CIC) in 2010. Through its unique network of partner charities and local businesses, it provides over £1.37 million worth of free tickets to children, their families and community groups throughout the UK every year.    www.circus-starr.org.uk

Show and Tell was made possible through a £124,735 grant from the Digital R&D Fund for the Arts; a £7 million fund to support collaboration between organisations with arts projects, technology providers, and researchers. It is a partnership between Arts Council England (www.artscouncil.org.uk), Arts and Humanities Research Council (www.ahrc.ac.uk) and Nesta (www.nesta.org.uk). 

From the outset, the design, content and function of the app was developed in close consultation with the National Autistic Society’s Cultural Development Manager, Heather Wildsmith.   Heather recently worked as advisor on The Lion King and the Autism and Theatre Inspiration Day. Her unique knowledge and insights have proved invaluable in informing the look and feel of the finished product.

The project was part of a wider research programme to explore how the use of digital technologies could widen audience access and engagement in the arts, with the purpose of developing useful products, services and knowledge for the wider arts and cultural sector.

National Autistic Society’s (NAS) Autism Professionals Awards 2015.

The independent judging panel consists of 11 leading experts in the field of autism from a variety of professional backgrounds across the UK. Full biographical details of all judges are available on the website: www.autismprofessionalsawards.org.uk

There are 13 awards in total, including four celebrating individual professional achievement and nine recognising good practice by teams or organisations.

The 13 categories are:

Awards for an individual professional

1. The Axcis Award for Achievement by an Individual Education Professional

2. Lifetime Achievement Award

3. Award for Outstanding Achievement by an Individual on the Autism Spectrum

4. Award for Most Inspirational Volunteer

Awards for a team of professionals

5. Award for Inspirational Education Provision – Primary Schools

6. Award for Inspirational Education Provision – Secondary Schools and Over 16

7. Award for Inspirational Education Provision – Other Education Provider

8. Award for Outstanding Adult Services

9. Award for Clinical Excellence

10. Award for Innovative Family Support

11. Award for Best New Technological Innovation sponsored by Network Autism

12. Award for Most Creative Community Project

13. Autism Accreditation Excellence Award

To find out more information about the Awards please visit www.autismprofessionalsawards.org.uk.


Award for Best New Technological Innovation sponsored by Network Autism

·         This award seeks to recognise inspiring teams or organisations that have come up with creative new technology that helps improve the quality of life for people with autism.

·         The type of technology that can be nominated is wide – it can be a robot, a computer programme, a mobile phone app or anything else with a technological component.

·         However, the judges will be looking for evidence of how this innovative technology will provide a high potential of yielding lasting, beneficial impact to as wide a user group as possible. 

·         Any person or group may submit nominations, and teams or organisations may nominate themselves. For-profit companies and public or not-for-profit organisations are eligible.


Autism Professionals Awards sponsors

AXCIS Education Recruitment

·         Axcis Education Recruitment is the foremost specialist supplier of quality special educational needs (SEN) staffing solutions in the UK.

·         Their commitment to working with government and professional partners plus its duty of care, ensures that, despite wide-ranging changes in education, they can have a positive effect on the lives of the young people with SEND they ultimately support.

·         They appreciate these young people are some of the most vulnerable in the education system and require inclusive nurture to allow them to achieve to the very best of their ability. www.axcis.co.uk

Switalskis Solicitors

·         Three times winner of the Yorkshire Law Firm of the Year award, Switalskis Solicitors offers a wide range of expert legal advice and representation for individuals and businesses.

·         Switalskis legal services are available from nine locations across the Yorkshire region: York, Leeds, Wakefield, Bradford, Huddersfield, Halifax, Dewsbury, Pontefract and Goldthorpe (in association with W. Brook & Co).k

Autism Accreditation

·         Established by The National Autistic Society (NAS) and its affiliated local societies, with support from the Department of Health, Autism Accreditation has been the foundation upon which much of the successful expansion of quality services for people with autism has been built.

·         Autism Accreditation works to improve the quality of provision for people with autism by:

o   providing a unified standard of excellence in both policy and practice

o   presenting a systematic framework for continuous self-examination and development

o   giving guidance and support to the services who use our programme so that they can meet the established criteria required for accredited status.

·         Autism Accreditation provides an autism-specific quality assurance programme for over 300 organisations throughout the UK and across the globe. Clients include local authorities, NHS trusts, education authorities, local autism societies and private companies.



Network Autism

·         Network Autism is a place where professionals can come together, open up new channels of information and share good practice.

·         Network autism allows professionals to:

o   connect with professionals in similar situations

o   collaborate in finding new solutions

o   share expertise and knowledge

o   support colleagues in achieving better outcomes.


The National Autistic Society

·         Autism is a lifelong developmental disability that affects how a person communicates with, and relates to, other people. It also affects how they make sense of the world around them. It is a spectrum condition, which means that, while all people with autism share certain difficulties, their condition will affect them in different ways. Some people with autism are able to live relatively independent lives but others may have accompanying learning disabilities and need a lifetime of specialist support. People with autism may also experience over- or under-sensitivity to sounds, touch, tastes, smells, light or colours.

·         Asperger syndrome is a form of autism. People with Asperger syndrome are often of average or above average intelligence. They have fewer problems with speech but may still have difficulties with understanding and processing language.

·         The National Autistic Society is the UK's leading charity for people with autism and their families.  Founded in 1962, it continues to spearhead national and international initiatives and provide a strong voice for all people with autism. The NAS provides a wide range of services to help people with autism and Asperger syndrome live their lives with as much independence as possible.

·         For more information about autism and the NAS, visit www.autism.org.uk

·         Follow the NAS on Twitter (@Autism) or on Facebook (www.facebook.com/NationalAutisticSociety) 

 [PW1]This is the wording we use for the award – the other language is the awards generally.

By Cath Logan on 5th February, 2015

What People Are Saying

“ 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

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