Tuesday, 5 March 2024
Tuesday, 5 March 2024

Work begins on UK-first arts centre for autistic young people with complex needs

WORK has begun on a one-of-its-kind arts centre to support autistic young people with complex needs to access the transformational power of the performing arts.

The Let Me Shine Performing Arts Centre at autism charity Prior’s Court is beginning to take shape with works well underway to transform an existing building at the charity’s Berkshire site.

Once open in the 2024/25 school year, the unique centre will feature adapted facilities to support autistic young people with complex needs to access opportunities in music, dance and drama and the life-enriching benefits this provides.

Autistic individuals face many barriers to accessing the arts – from light and noise sensitivities to understanding of social rules – and one aim of the centre is to mimic theatre environments to prepare young people to access arts venues in the community successfully.

Work begins on UK-first arts centre for autistic young people with complex needs
A floorplan outlining the facilities of the Performing Arts Centre.

This is in addition to having the opportunity day-to-day to express themselves creatively in a dedicated, bespoke space within the specialist learning and residential provision at Prior’s Court, where families can also attend performances.

Sue Piper, Prior’s Court’s Director of Learning, said:

“It is hugely exciting to see work to create the centre progressing. We believe there is nowhere else in the country that has an arts centre built specifically to meet the needs of autistic people with complex needs – this is a unique project.

“Up to 80% of young people at Prior’s Court are pre-verbal and the arts offer a powerful means of communicating needs, expressions and feelings. Being autistic with complex needs should not be a barrier to accessing the transformational power of the arts – whether that is performing on stage, watching a performance or simply having the space to explore arts in one’s own way.

“A huge thank you to every foundation, trust, corporate supporter and individual donor who has played their part in getting the project to this stage.”

Prior’s Court’s ambition is to also use the centre to research best practices around providing support to access the arts, and sharing these learnings with others in the education and performing arts sectors for the benefit of autistic people, and their families, across the country and beyond.

A series of explainer videos about topics such as making an autism-friendly building, meeting sensory needs, the green credentials of the build and more are available on Prior’s Court’s YouTube channel.

The project is still the subject of an ongoing fundraising appeal. Find out more at priorscourt.org.uk/PAC.

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