In 2017, we joined a radical UK-wide project highlighting the extraordinary contribution neurodiverse people make to art and culture. The EXPLORERS Project
is informed and led by neurodiverse communities, and at Autograph it’s resulted in exhibitions
, the creation of our Family SEND Workshops, and more. It has changed us and our programming, for the better.
Our Learning and Participation Team had already been working on a rights-based framework for Autograph’s arts engagement work. This approach makes the legal, civic, and human rights of participants the starting point for consultation and project design, in order to create more ethical forms of participatory projects - and help initiate systemic change. The EXPLORERS Project offered us a strategic opportunity to build on this framework; we wanted to become more inclusive for families with children with SEND (Special Educational Needs and Disability, a term often used in education).
The families we spoke to often felt excluded from both gallery spaces and the family activities on offer, and wanted activities designed for children with SEND in mind. We learned there was an experience gap between events in cultural spaces labelled as inclusive, and the reality families often found on arrival. These families wanted safe, fun and welcoming activities their entire family could enjoy: an opportunity for siblings with and without disabilities or complex support needs to creatively express themselves.