Family SEND Programme

2019 - ongoing


For families who have a child/children with complex needs or SEND (special educational needs and disabilities)


There are few environments in our locality which meet the needs of these families, and children with complex needs are often excluded from mainstream activities, including arts activities


Free artist-led workshops designed so that the whole family can get involved in creative play and activities

ABOUT THE Programme

Our Family SEND programme offers free, artist-led, creative workshops and resources to families with a child/children with complex needs. The workshops take place at Autograph's gallery in Hackney, London. 

We launched the programme in May 2019, with our first family workshop following a three-year partnership with Project Art Works on their EXPLORERS programme, which aimed to build capacity in visual arts venues and improve understanding of barriers to participation and attendance among disabled practitioners and audiences.

Our approach prioritises the social model of disability and aims to create an appropriate, safe environment which is welcoming and accepting of all ways of being, adapting the environment to lessen the potential for anything which might trigger anxiety or distress.

Find out more about the different elements of the programme below. Interested in attending with your family? Join our Family SEND mailing list to be among the first to find out about new workshops and activities.

what we've accomplished so far


54 FAMILY workshops

Child-led creative play sessions  for all the family, based at Autograph's gallery in Hackney


4 Family Art Kits

Packed full of creative materials and ideas, posted out to 80 families during lockdown


1 Exhibition

Inviting the wider public to engage with the programme and the art made by families during the workshops


REached Over 650 Attendees

Kids, adults, carers, grandparents - all the family are invited to participate!


1 TEacher Training session

A CPD event for teachers and art educators, sharing our learning about creative play as a method for working with children with SEND


2 Conference presentations

Sharing our work with other practitioners in the field


2 blog posts

Sharing our learning and updates from the programme


2 Celebration events

Celebrating our Family SEND programme with the community we've built along the way


1 image gallery

Sharing pictures from our event to celebrate 3 years of the Family SEND programme


2 workshop assistants

Recruited to support delivery


2 Volunteers

Engaged in the programme


Our workshops are specifically designed to accommodate the needs of children with SEND. Lead artist, Katriona Beales, takes inspiration from ideas of child-led 'creative play', material exploration and sensory experiences to provide free-flowing activities so that children have the freedom to engage with materials in a way which follows their own interests and make sense to them.

To get a better sense of our workshops, watch the video made by our workshop assistant Mahul Patel and see the images below.





In March 2020, Autograph made the difficult decision to temporarily suspend our Family SEND workshops due to the pandemic. We knew that putting the sessions on hold meant far more than just the loss of a monthly activity; the sessions at our gallery had become an opportunity for families to connect with one another too. So we introduced a postal programme in place of the workshops, to continue providing families with creative outlets and a sense of connection in a disconnected and difficult time for many. We also made these resources available to download, free for everyone to enjoy.


Family Art Activities: Sun Prints

A family activity to welcome in the summer! Sun printing is an early photographic printing process, which uses special paper coated with photo-sensitive chemicals to record a picture by capturing light on its surface.

Find out more



As We Are But Not As You Know Us
28 Feb - 14 Mar 2020

Artist and educator Katriona Beales regularly uses green screen technology in her workshops for Autographs's Family SEND programme. With their families, children make films of themselves surrounded by the fantastical backdrops and props they created. Through play and collaboration, stories are told and alternate ways of being imagined.

The As We Are But Not As You Know Us exhibition at our building in London expanded on these workshops, transforming the gallery into an installation of green fabric, video projection and sensory materials for everyone to enjoy.

Programme Team

Katriona Beales, Lead Artist

Katriona Beales is an artist and educator. Beales leads on the concept and delivery of Autograph's Family SEND workshops. She has exhibited her artwork internationally, recently showing new commissions at the V&A and Science Gallery London. Her project Are we all addicts now?, supported by The Wellcome Trust and Arts Council England, was shown at Furtherfield, London in 2017. She was one of the Tate's Artist Workshop Leaders, leading SEND workshops as well as primary and secondary school workshops in response to the collections at Tate Britain and Tate Modern. Beales was the lead artist on South London Gallery’s Supersmashers project working with looked after children aged 6-12 years old in partnership with social services and carers.

Find out more on the artist's website and follow her on Instagram.

What We've Learnt

When we launched our Family SEND programme, our analysis showed that there was no competing provision around arts services for SEND families across Hackney or our three closest boroughs. Local parents and carers told us that they 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. They explained that, given their child/children’s needs, there are few environments and activities which are suitable for the family to enjoy together.

Our workshops are sensitive to the participants' different needs and circumstances; all the children, including those with SEND and their non-SEND siblings, can participate in all activities – no one is excluded. We are able to do this because our learning and participation team and workshop assistants provide 1:1 support for families. We contact all families prior to their visit, and ask them to provide us with detailed information about their families’ needs and interests, so that we can ensure the best possible experience for everyone.


It's lovely to feel supported by the staff and wonderful to access a group that is non-judgmental and celebrates differences as we do. It's a fun thing to do for all the family - we are all doing the same thing together but at our own paces. Art is a fantastic medium that makes everyone equal.

All the staff were enthusiastic, engaging and just absolutely lovely with every single child that attended. Each child roamed freely with no restrictions what so ever, exploring art in every way possible. We painted, we dressed up using materials and had a fashion show, we played with messy play, explored and just had the best time. Many places claim to be SEND friendly and are far from it! SEND inclusive doesn’t just mean being wheelchair accessible, or having an autism hour. It’s about staff who actually care.


Autograph's Family SEND programme has been supported by City of London Corporation's charitable funder City Bridge Trust since 2020.

ALSO supported by


Autograph's Family SEND programme is an outcome of the EXPLORERS project, delivered by Project Art Works. EXPLORERS was a three-year programme of art and conversations, involving 12 national art organisations. The programme was informed and led by neurodiverse communities, placing them at the heart of social, civic and cultural activity.

Special Thanks

To Lucy Keany, who was instrumental in founding the programme


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Workshop images from the Family SEND Programme, with thanks to the attendees.

Images on page: Sun Prints worksheet © and courtesy Katriona Beales.