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'Show and Tell' is an interactive visual story app for children on the autistic spectrum.
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Show and Tell recently won the Best New Technological Innovation Award at the National Autistic Society’s (NAS) Autism Professionals Awards presented by NAS President Jane Asher and Chief Executive Mark Lever at a prestigious awards dinner on 3rd March 2015 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