This new report was launched on 28 March and in collaboration with autistic people, organisations and charities in relation to fake cures often distributed on social media. These ‘cures’ are rightfully causing concern so the Westminster Commission on Autism has produced a short report on recommendations to Government to support people and families. Link to the report is here: https://t.co/yGZCyrnGmr
This is a groundbreaking report by the Westminster AchieveAbility Commission. We are proud to be associated and quoted with this important report for all sectors but particularly for us the Heritage, Arts and Cultural Sector. It is also very timely with the recent release of which is timely to the ‘Making A Shift Report: Disabled people and the Arts and Cultural Sector Workforce in England: Understanding trends, barriers and opportunities.’
Link to the full WAC report is here: http://www.achieveability.org.uk/main/policy/wac-report-is-released
NEWS RELEASE Monday 22nd January 2018
Neurodiverse Voices:Opening Doors to Employment
Ground-breaking report on systemic barriers to employment
A ground-breaking report is being launched TODAY on Monday January 22nd by the Westminster AchieveAbility Commission (WAC) and then released into the public domain.
Over the period of a year, WAC has gathered evidence on systemic barriers to employment for millions of potential employees who are neurodivergent (i.e. dyslexic, dyspraxic, autistic and/or with Attention Deficit Disorder). This significant study from the Westminster AchieveAbility Commission on Recruitment is aligned with the government’s stated aim of increasing the number of people with disabilities in employment, set out in the Improving Lives Green Paper (2016) and Command Paper (2017). There could be no better time to highlight the abilities and workplace support needs of the large neurodivergent population and point to better recruitment and retention practices, for the benefit of the national economy.
The resulting data has highlighted a widespread lack of awareness, failures in government support and workplace discrimination – but also many examples of good practice as most neurodivergent people are able and skilled – it is recruitment processes that disable them. All of this has fed into the Commission’s report. The report launch on January 22nd will be followed by a second event, also in Westminster, on Thursday 25th to celebrate the creativity of the neurodivergent community.
WAC recommendations include widespread awareness training, accessibility of written employment information and an end to inappropriate testing as part of the selection process. We call for the improvement of government support programmes and disability initiatives.
HEADLINES FROM THE REPORT
43% of survey respondents felt discouraged from applying by job application processes.
52% claimed to have experienced discrimination during interview or selection processes.
73% did not disclose their condition during interview – of those that did, 58% regretted it, feeling this led to discrimination.
On-line job applications which don’t allow assistive technology and use of spellcheckers bar neurodivergent applicants from accessing jobs.
Employers are breaking the law (Equality Act 2010) when they fail to implement reasonable adjustments for disabled people
QUOTATIONS FROM THE REPORT “My first few staff reports started with the words “this officer will never be suitable for promotion as he is dyslexic.” “Employers cannot make reasonable adjustments if they do not begin from the premise of acceptance.” “All psychometric tests are impossible for me, however in many cases I know I would be very good at the job and that these test don’t reflect my capabilities.”
DCN is very proud to be supporting this project. Jess and DCN believe that museums can influence society. ‘Museum of the Labelled’ will help to break down barriers, stereotypes and give the participants confidence and self-awareness. Museum of the Labelled’ will gather people’s thoughts and experiences, positive and negative, to raise awareness of neurodiversity in society.
To enhance ‘Labelled’, Jess would also like members of the wider community to submit online their own stories, research, art and thoughts throughout the project. Participants will gain an understanding of themselves, give them an opportunity to be involved with a creative project and to develop a sense of belonging and improved wellbeing.
What does this mean for pre-existing collections?
Through the process of ‘Museum of the Labelled’ Jess will begin to create a wider neurodiversity archive of museum objects, art and people’s voices. Neurodiversity history is currently dispersed, with small collections across many museums and archives. Objects are often not recorded fully or used for public engagement. The project aim is to allow museums and collections to share their neurodiverse objects in a central place and allow the public to discover neurodiverse history and highlight hidden stories.
How will the Museum of the Labelled develop?
Jess would like to do this by delivering a participatory art project and by locating relevant museum objects. Participants will: a) learn about neurodiversity history through exploring archives and museum objects. b) reflect on their own personal experiences, in comparison to, and informed by, archive items from the selected neurodiversity collection. c) use this as a catalyst to create new accessible art works. The group will learn about the history of neurodiversity through exploring archives and museum objects. A high proportion of people who are neurodiverse will at some point have a mental illness.
DCN are supporting this project and will be presenting at Neurodiversity and the Arts at Autograph, London on Thursday 9 November and MA Conference Festival of Change on Friday 17 November.
I think I have objects which may relate to this project, what do I do next?
Check out our handout Neurodiversity infographic master If you have objects which you think will relate to the history of neurodiversity or you are not sure. Do get in touch with Becki at email@example.com or Jess at firstname.lastname@example.org
Culture Coventry are looking for participants in the following project:
Neuroaesthetics explores the synergy between the needs and interests of neurodiverse audiences, with the fascinations and performance modes utilised by live artists. Working in collaboration with young people who are largely non-verbal, with severe needs, the artists will be challenged to find meaningful points of collaboration, and together radically re-imagine the neurodiverse performance space.
Each artist will explore and reconfigure their distinct practice in this highly unpredictable, ‘extra live’ context with the support and guidance of the two lead artists. It is anticipated that seeing their work through this new lens and receiving unmediated audience responses will provoke rich new creative lines of enquiry.
Neuroaesthetics looks to challenge ideas of risk in a highly safeguarded area of work, and dismantle the idea of a fixed a ‘disabled theatre’ aesthetic to make way for new possibilities of making performance for and with this often sidelined group of individuals.
We have a number of twitter feeds about what neurodiversity is and how it is a positive asset to the workplace. There are a number of excellent organisations and associations, particularly local groups who have a great deal of experience. These organisations are happy to be contacted to raise awareness, inclusive practice and support.
This page focuses on autism spectrum disorder and has a number of links and resources. This page sits alongside case studies and information available on this website. The aim for these resources is to support adults and families for inclusive practice in the workplace and service delivery of museums and cultural venues in the UK.
Workplace Training (including online training that can start as little as £25), awareness, guidance and workplace support go to the National Autistic Society http://www.autism.org.uk/
Coming from the perspective of a casual visitor to museums and having (as yet) not professional experience from working in the sector, I feel confident enough in saying that the activities which have come my way have given a rare insight that others my age would have not had themselves. Whether it has been producing an exhibition in a museum or gaining paid roles as a result of volunteering, not only accessing heritage from a young age is a valuable opening in its own right, but impacts those like myself who have lifelong conditions to manage. For the latter part, it can alter the perception someone can see the world.
My own personal story seemed to reach a highlight at the recent Autism in Museums event, hosted by the charity Kids in Museums, where on behalf of Ambitious about Autism I presented on what I believe professionals could learn from those periods in which museums and other related organisations really did break from their shell. The three values I spoke of as followed:
While most have their own interpretations on what those words mean to them, I saw in practice how these three interlinked goals could make a difference in what is seen sometimes as an unfashionable environment. At Dorset County Museum (DCM) in 2012, a cohort of us of mixed abilities, in education, employment or, as in some cases, with profound disabilities, worked together to put on a full exhibition on a 70 year legacy of youth clubs in the county. The project, Dorset Young Remembers (DYR), was funded by the Heritage Lottery Fund and was a celebration of all time strands from past to future of how provision for young people could make a real difference.
While the contents of the exhibition were something to be proud of, the real success lied in how all volunteers were part of the group and would be able to utilise their interests in research, interviewing members of the community or in my case, acting as a press officer for our online blog and the media. The challenge of acting as a Master of Ceremonies may have prompted some organisations to query whether someone more…polished to have taken on my role when officially launching the exhibition, but DCM gave us full control and responsibility of how we wanted to achieve our vision. As unusual in its context it may be, for those on the spectrum like myself and others who felt powerless to have any role in our communities, the experience of making something happen and acquiring a few more skills for the wider world pays its dividends. The Museum alone has to be applauded for taking what in retrospect now was a gamble and throwing its doors open to an area of modern history not often appreciated enough.
Breaking the Mould
With most museums intent on bringing its visitors inside its doors, it has to be said many more people would take a keener interest if the history could be located in the wider outdoor world where local heritage can be seen in the flesh. Living in an area like Dorset, many of its towns, including our base in Dorchester, is fortunate in not having to look hard to find a backstory. As a true example of this, Geocaching was an effective medium, which already had an international following, of setting boxes in hidden locations to simply tell those stories! Simple enough in its premise, but as a cost effective and accessible project for young people of all abilities to develop and take part in, it does in effect bring history to life when you might be standing in the heart of something significant. In my presentation, I recommended museums make more of a conscious effort to go beyond the typical boards attached to exhibits which might tell stories. With
copious sentences and sometimes minimally sized font, for those who are autistic and beyond, there is nothing to be gained from this. As illustrated by DYR’s successor project, Walking in their Shoes, with the help of Young Roots funding, produced its own unique spin of telling interesting narratives.
Previously used for exhibition boards at DCM, the Comic Life, software and others like it have the potential to be game changers in how history is perceived by a younger audience. Indeed, with the close support by The Tank Museum and Keep Military Museum, they helped to embrace our new approach by accessing their archives, even with the chance to see an exhibit in progress, to bring the history of World War I 100 years on to 2014. For Anglo Saxon research, this became even more pivotal when there is such little recorded factual information. A little imagination can go a long way, but without the collaboration of those who supported us in the heritage field, it would have failed miserably. For volunteers who had disabilities and who may have felt excluded previously, to feel valued with supported tasks they could make a contribution. Key to that is having willing adult volunteers who can enable younger ones. That in itself should be an incentive to museums to welcome new audiences.
Finding the Answers
There is no easy solution to prescribe to all venues. Museums and other places come in all different shapes and sizes and where funding these days becomes increasingly scarcer. A recurring point from the event this month shows just how basic training in autism awareness could go a long way to make a difference, but there are at last precedents being made and embracing autism in a more holistic method than previously done. The RAF and V&A Museums are trailblazing in this respect.
My booklet, ‘Generation History’ which was produced with the help of the charity Fixers advises how to make local heritage more inclusive and inviting to all. Though some things need investment to make it happen, I find it is an alternative approach which can help to break boundaries. Autism is not the problem to be solved here – it is the way in which we accommodate others that can tell of innovation.
A multi-sensory storytelling project for special schools created by Peoplescape Theatre.
In partnership with National Maritime Museum, Cutty Sark and Horniman Museums and Gardens.
Funded by the Arts Council
Peoplescape are a theatre education company working in London and Manchester. We work with all ages in schools, museums and community settings. Over the past 8 years we have been developing theatre projects in museums for children with special needs.
We aim to create theatre that is accessible to all, so we often limit our words, use music, sensory experiences. Our work is always interactive often with the children taking a role in the story. In this project we were also working with a composer and digital mentor.
Following our recent successful projects for special needs audiences at the Museum of London and ‘Welcome to Cottonopolis’ at the People’s History Museum, John Rylands Library and Salford Museum, we were delighted to be collaborating with three wonderful museums in South London.
All of the museums were very keen to develop their offer to special needs groups.
We wanted to find a way to link the museums’ collections in a meaningful way and create a single story which would be performed in each museum for special school audiences.
Company Play day and Focus Group
The project began in February 2015 with a company play day at the Horniman Museum – exploring style, theme, techniques. This was followed by a focus group workshop bringing together Peoplescape, the museums and local special schools. We shared ways of working creatively with children with special needs, possible ideas for stories, and worked through drama to engage with objects, characters and themes inspired by the museums. We also talked to the teachers about universal themes that were pertinent for their children.
We came up with a simple story – It is the late 19th Century. A 14-year-old apprentice says goodbye to his mum and boards a tea clipper for a voyage overseas.
Research and Development
We began a series of nine research and development workshops in three schools local to the museums. We worked with one class at each school. The groups were very different:
Year six high functioning children with ASD Year one children with SLD and PMLD Year four children with a variety of need: ASD, SLD and PMLD
Within these workshops we were able to try out ideas, themes and ways of working, including:
Storm Music created by the children
Call and response sea shanties
Multi-sensory objects and experiences e.g. wind created by sails, rope, tea, ice bags, UV fabric sea creatures
Different characters and moving in and out of role
Live video projecting of children whilst they were in role as sailors
Applied theatre techniques such as improvisation, thought tapping, forum theatre to explore the apprentice’s feelings about leaving home, the jobs he might do on the ship etc.
An interactive floor projection of the sea.
From the workshops we were able to find out what worked for all groups (e.g. the mum role and the emotion of leaving) and what didn’t (e.g. shadow puppets for children with visual impairments). Each group was also able to have a session in one of the museums. The children had ownership of the story and were able to contribute in their own way e.g. showing us their reactions to various digital and musical techniques, naming the main character ‘Tom’, choosing China as a destination for the ship, telling us their research about the harshness of conditions on board 19th century tea clippers.
All this work fed into our devising process where we shaped the ideas into an hour-long participatory performance.
Before each performance we visit each school to deliver an outreach workshop to introduce ourselves and some of the props, songs and characters. We are also able to gauge the needs of the children and pitch the performance appropriately.
The performance – Tom’s Ship of Stories
“Prepare the Ship to set sail”
“Haul the ropes and hoist the sails!”
“Are you ready for hard work? Scrub the decks!”
“I don’t think I’d like to eat a jellyfish for my tea!”
‘pack the tea and load the crates’
“I want the rain to stop, I want the wind to stop, I want to sleep” “Tom is feeling sad…. I wonder if any of you can help?”
“very well thought through, addressing the auditory, sensory and visual needs of the audience”
“the whole performance was fantastic, children were extremely engaged”
“Lovely to come to something that was pitched at just the right level”
We are currently working on the next phase of the project. We’re working with the museums to develop their own sessions created specifically for special needs groups drawing on the techniques we’ve used in Tom’s Ship and the many things we’ve learned.
Free showcase performance of Tom’s Ship of Stories, followed by discussion, at the National Maritime Museum on the 10th March, 3-5pm. Open to all those working in museums/theatre/education. Places must be reserved, contact email@example.com
The Royal Air Force Museum has recently embarked on an exciting new partnership with Ambitious About Autism. In June 2014 we were the first museum to receive the Autistic Society’s Autism Access Award, and were keen to build on our efforts to become more accessible. We began working with Ambitious College when we were approached by their Employment specialist, Katie Wake, about the possibility of providing work placements for some of their students.
Ambitious College is a specialist further education provision for adults with autism. Located on the Grahame Park campus of Barnet and Southgate College, the college provides specialist support to enable young people with autism to access further education and supported employment in their local community. The needs of their students are complex and many find communication and social understanding very challenging.
Part of my role as Education Officer at the museum is to develop and run our work experience programme for young people. The museum is committed to accessibility and I offer a number of work experience placements within our Access and Learning team for students with special educational needs. However, this was the first time we would be working with students with severe and complex autism, which was a little daunting.
Ambitious College were brilliant. They really make the effort to get to know the workplace so that they can find the best fit for the employer and student. After an initial meeting where Katie and I discussed timings and tasks students might do at the museum, Katie spent a day with the Access and Learning team getting to know our working environment.
The museum’s formal learning activities are quite resource heavy. Visiting school groups can make replica gas mask boxes, evacuee labels, mini helicopter rotors, rockets or parachutes. All of these workshop resources need to be prepared in advance, and in large numbers. With up to 240 children visiting per day we get through them very quickly! Katie and I had identified resource preparation as a task that would suit her students and be very helpful to the museum.
During her time with our team Katie shadowed staff, took photographs of the resources students would be working with, and of the office environment itself. We provided her with the museum’s health and safety and risk assessment information as well as our guide for visitors with autism. This enabled her to put together an information pack which ensures that Ambitious College staff and students can be fully briefed before they come into the museum.
The museum agreed that we would take on one student for one afternoon per week on a rolling basis.
During the placement
Before each placement Katie sends me a profile of the student detailing their specific needs, likes and dislikes, and how they communicate. During their placement students are accompanied by at least two specialist college support staff who know the student well and coach and support them at all times. Students have their own desk in our open plan office. I provide a series of tasks for them to complete, and the support staff work directly with the student to encourage and assist them with their work. At the end of their placement students get a certificate of achievement together with a record of the tasks they have completed.
We took on our first Ambitious College student, Mary, between February and April 2015, and our second, Conor, from May to July. So far the partnership seems to be working really well. Both Mary and Conor coped brilliantly with the Museum environment. They took to the work we gave them very quickly and did a fantastic job.
Feedback from the College has been very positive. The students benefit from gaining experience of a new environment and meeting new people. As well as building confidence, they are also developing new skills and an understanding of the workplace.
The museum benefits by expanding its range of partnerships, improving accessibility and by having the chance to learn from highly trained and experienced SEN professionals. In addition, the work these students do preparing resources for our learning activities makes a real contribution to our schools programme.
We are all adapting and learning as we go along. Early on I discovered that a good approach was to provide students with a variety of different tasks to complete so that they could be encouraged to choose what they did, and in which order.
As an employer, being a little bit flexible can be helpful. There are occasions when students are not able to attend their allotted placement time and have to cancel on short notice, for example. Above all, I think maintaining good communication between partners has been vital to the success of this project.
Working with Ambitious College has been personally very inspiring. Observing how the support staff work with their students, motivating and encouraging them, has been a real education. Their skill and professionalism gives me complete confidence that we can offer work placements for students with complex needs. I also feel that I am learning a great deal from their staff that I can apply in my wider role as an Education Officer. This can really help us improve the museum’s provision for SEND audiences.
I very much hope we can continue to develop and expand this relationship. In November this year Ambitious College and the RAF museum will be delivering a joint presentation at the Museums Association Conference about our experiences of providing work placements for students with autism.
I look forward to taking on more students when the new term starts in September. Working with Ambitious College has been beneficial in so many ways. We are all learning from this partnership and that is extremely positive and exciting.