Life Science Centre, in Newcastle, has been awarded the Gold Standard by The North East Autism Society (NEAS), making it the first visitor attraction to ever receive the award.
The award, which was presented ahead of Word Autism Day on Friday 2 April, recognises the innovative three-year partnership between Life and NEAS which has led to improvements in the visitor experience for autistic people, and increasing staff’s understanding of autism and neurodiversity through on-going specialist training.
This partnership began in 2018, with families from NEAS’s community forming an advisory group to ensure that the Life Science Centre experience, from its exhibitions to its cafes, is accessible and welcoming to autistic people. The partnership has received widespread recognition and attention, and has been hailed as an example of best practice by the science centre community globally and other attractions. In the past year, Life and NEAS have shared their experiences at global online conferences in the U.K, United States and Europe.
Linda Conlon, Chief Executive at Life, said: “This partnership is a great example of what can be achieved when two organisations work together. It’s been a real two-way street in terms of collaboration and learning.
“One of the things that makes this relationship unique is the collaborative approach we’ve adopted. The families have been actively involved in shaping the changes we’ve made, including prototyping and designing two major new exhibitions and developing the new programme of Sensory-friendly Sundays, dedicated quiet hours for people with autism and other sensory needs, which launched early last year. It’s a huge accolade to see this team effort recognised as Gold Standard – and on World Autism Day!”
Kerrie Highcock, Family Development Manager at NEAS, said: “For over 40 years, The North East Autism Society has been a leading provider of neurodiversity and autism-specific care, education, training and employment services across the North East of England.
“We are thrilled to be awarding Life Science Centre with the Gold Standard in recognition of their ongoing dedication to autism acceptance and accessibility.”
During the pandemic, Life has created online science activities – such as stargazing and birdwatching – for NEAS to keep families entertained while home-schooling.