Skip to content

For children with Austin Spectrum Disorder (ASD), it can be hard to enjoy the simple pleasures of art, but the development of an ASD guide is helping to share the wonders of art with all.

Primary school teacher and mother-of-three Kelly Ibbitson loves playing with her children and allowing them to participate in what the community has to offer, but for her seven-year-old son Deacon, it’s not easy to soak up community events without becoming overstimulated and anxious.   

Deacon has ASD, which can make involvement in community events like the AWESOME International Arts Festival for Bright Young Things – an annual arts festival for children and young people featuring performances, workshops and hands-on creative activities – an incredibly daunting experience.

“I used to be terrified to take Deacon to events, just not knowing what could happen,” Mrs Ibbitson said.

Keen to help children like Deacon share in these activities more comfortably, Telethon Kids Institute Angela Wright Bennett Professor of Autism Research and CliniKids Director, Professor Andrew Whitehouse, partnered with arts and health organisation DADAA Inc and the AWESOME Festival team to create an Autism Spectrum Navigational festival guide.

“Every child has a right to participate in art, yet not all children have ready access to it,” Professor Whitehouse said.

The guide rated each activity and performance between one and five (one being ‘easy peasy’ and five being ‘extremely difficult’) and provided detailed sensory stimuli information, allowing parents to weigh up access, content and the positive/negative triggers for each event.

Professor Whitehouse said the system was designed to lessen the burden for families with a child on the spectrum, allowing them to share in the wonders on offer at the festival.

“The guide provides information that can help guide parents as to the most appropriate shows for their children and ensures that this wonderful festival is inclusive to all,” he said.

For Mrs Ibbitson, the guide has been a revelation.

“Having this guide meant knowing I could spend money on kids’ shows, events and activities and be confident it would be a successful experience for my boys,” she said.