In 2019, Autograph started working with Katriona Beales to develop a new, monthly workshop programme for Families with children with SEND and complex needs.
Informed by her own methodology of making in the studio, and ideas of child-led creative play, activities full of sensory experimentation were developed for families. Staff were trained to ensure the experience was accessible and welcoming for everyone. Encouraged when the first workshop was fully booked, we watched the programme grow over the next 12 months. Parents generously shared ideas with us about how an arts organisation can be meaningfully inclusive for children with SEND, and explained just how important the opportunity for playful creativity was for their children. We, in turn, shared some of this learning and the rich experiences from the programme in the exhibition ‘As we are but not as you know us’, a participatory installation which opened just before Covid-19.
In mid-March 2020, Autograph made the difficult decision to temporarily suspend the workshops due to the pandemic. We knew that putting these 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. With many specialist support services shutting down, we recognised they would feel the impact of Coronavirus acutely. How could Autograph continue to support them, from afar?
The solution soon became clear: introduce a postal service. We commissioned Katriona to reimagine the workshop activities as a vibrant art kit that could be mailed to families. The art activities were adapted with an emphasis on fun, self-care, well-being and positive mental health – doing what we could to help reduce the anxiety, isolation and boredom of lockdown. Bursting with art supplies and hand-drawn worksheets, our Family SEND Art Kits were posted free of charge to 20 of the families who regularly joined us at the gallery workshops.
The Family SEND Art Kit worksheets Beales designed are for all families, download them here from the Autograph website.
Video by Mahul Patel.