Rugby Art Gallery and Museum joins forces with Rugby Autism Network to launch Relaxed Hour

RUGBY Art Gallery and Museum has launched sessions tailored for children on the autism spectrum.

The Relaxed Hour has been launched in partnership with the Rugby Autism Network, creating a calm, quiet environment where children can explore the Art Gallery, Museum and World Rugby Hall of Fame while parents and carers enjoy a break.

Relaxed hourThe sessions were the brainchild of the Art Gallery and Museum's arts development team, and aim to make the venue accessible to youngsters on the autism spectrum by reducing factors which can cause a child to become anxious or distressed.

For each session, the venue closes the gallery, museum or Hall of Fame to the public and reduces the volume of audio and visual installations. 

Children can wear ear defenders while exploring the building and visit a 'blackout tent' to escape the hustle and bustle. The sessions also include a specially-tailored art and craft workshop, and a 'time out' room which has a range of items to stimulate the senses.

Sally Godden, Rugby Art Gallery and Museum's arts development officer, said: "Working with the Rugby Autism Network, we were able to identify many of the challenges which families with autism face when visiting a busy venue such as our Art Gallery and Museum.

"The Relaxed Hour caters for children from four-years-old and with youngsters on the autism spectrum now being diagnosed much earlier, we've had positive feedback from parents who currently have few options when it comes to entertaining children in an autism-friendly environment.

"The sessions also give parents and carers a chance to meet up and enjoy a coffee while children explore the venue with our staff."

Estimates suggest more than one in every 100 people in the UK has autism spectrum disorder, which affects social interaction, communication, interests and behaviour.

Rugby Autism Network was launched in 2009 by Fay McSorley to offer support to families with children on the spectrum and organise autism-friendly events.

The network, which won the Rugby's Pride Award at last year's Pride of Rugby Awards, currently supports more than 200 associate members and more than 600 parents and carers via its RAN chat group on Facebook.

Fay said: "We welcome Rugby Art Gallery and Museum's forward-thinking and inclusivity when it comes to planning their events.

"The Relaxed Hour enables autistic children and their families to access and enjoy the activities on offer, giving opportunities some might not otherwise have.

"Autism-friendly events are still rare in Rugby and we encourage all organisations considering offering them to consult with autistic people, parents and carers to find out what is really needed, as it's not always as obvious as one might think," she added.

"We thank Rugby Art Gallery and Museum for working with us and we hope that all those who attend enjoy the sessions."

The next Relaxed Hour takes place on Thursday 27 December at 4pm, with further sessions taking place in February and April next year.

For more information, visit www.ragm.co.uk/relaxedhour 

Cllr Sebastian Lowe, Rugby Borough Council portfolio holder for growth and investment, said: "The council was rated 'excellent' under the Equality Framework for Local Government last year following an independent review, which looked at the accessibility of our services to all our residents.

"Rugby Art Gallery and Museum has spearheaded a number of innovative projects to support our equality agenda, including The Good Times which offers support and activities for residents living with dementia.

"The Relaxed Hour enhances our work to promote equality and increases the opportunities for our residents to enjoy the Art Gallery, Museum and World Rugby Hall of Fame."

For more information on the Rugby Autism Network, visit www.rugbyautismnetwork.co.uk 

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