Research shows that autistic children often need time to prepare for new experiences, even those that we might assume are enjoyable and fun can create anxiety about the unexpected nature of what they are to encounter. We proposed to develop an app that could be used by autistic children to prepare them for a new experience like a trip to the circus by using images, audio and video to create a pre-visualisation of the experience, which in turn would reduce anxiety and offer a more enjoyable experience.
The app has proven to be useful in drawing a wider group of autistic children than we were able to reach before its conception and offers the potential to be used in other situations and cultural opportunities.
During the early phase of the research we worked with a focus group of children to develop key features and usability of the app. The final version was used by approximately 180 children and their families who were planning a visit to the circus. We used in-app feedback, questionnaires and interviews to find out how they used the app and how it helped them prepare for and get the most out of a trip to the circus. This research is the first on this scale to permit autistic children to directly feedback about their experiences of an art event.
“ 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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