Show and Tell has won the Best New Technological Innovation Award at the National Autistic Society’s (NAS) Autism Professionals Awards. It was presented by NAS President Jane Asher and Chief Executive Mark Lever at a prestigious awards dinner on 3rd March at Harrogate’s Royal Hall.
Circus Starr is a world class circus hosting inclusive performances to thousands of disadvantaged, disabled and vulnerable children every year. Over time, Circus Starr had come to realise that children with autism, who would normally struggle to cope with unfamiliar situations, would sit through an entire show mesmerised, due to the relaxed nature of the performances.
This led them to explore the possibility of using digital technologies to make their shows even more accessible. Cath Logan, Community Engagement Manager explains: “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.”
With funding from the Digital R & D fund for the Arts, “Show and Tell”, an interactive visual story app, was developed. Circus Starr collaborated with Dr Tracey Piper-Wright (University of Chester), Therapy Box and NAS to produce an app that can be tailored to suit the specific needs of a child in preparation for a trip to the circus. Photographs, footage from the show and text, help familiarise children with unknown experiences that may otherwise cause anxiety.
Cath Logan continues, “After 28 years of successful touring, we’re thrilled that our work in this field has been recognised by the National Autistic Society. Winning this award has put us in the spotlight and means we are now advising other arts organisations on how the app might also help them support children with autism.”
The awards, sponsored by Axcis Education Recruitment, recognise and reward services and professionals that lead the way in innovative autism practice and make a real difference to the lives of people with the condition in the UK.
Carol Povey, Director of the National Autistic Society’s Centre for Autism, said: “Autism is a specialist field which attracts many talented and dedicated individuals so it takes something extraordinary to stand out, especially in a year in which we received a record number of nominations.
“The work of Circus Starr hasn’t just benefited the children and families its Show and Tell app supports, it also serves a fantastic example to others working in the field of autism.
Autism can have a profound effect on individuals and families but, as shown by the achievements of Circus Starr and the other finalists, the right support can make all the difference and help them live the fullest life possible."
The app provides a template that can be adapted to support access to the arts and culture. It also has potential to support everyday challenges and life’s milestones, like transition into reception and from primary to secondary school, or even to help prepare for things like the Christmas play.
Show and Tell is currently available on iPad and iPhone and there are efforts to secure further funding to include a version for Android users and capitalise on its potential.
There were 191 nominations for this year’s awards, which were whittled down to a shortlist of 38 and finally 13 winners by a panel of 10 autism experts. The nominees were judged on their innovation, creativity, impact and sustainability.
To find out more information about the Awards, please visit www.autismprofessionalsawards.org.uk
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).
The Autism Professionals Awards
• 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
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 life-time 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 pro-vide 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).
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
• 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 as-sociation with W. Brook & Co).
• 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, established by the National Autistic Society (NAS) 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.
“ 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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