Autism in Racing: Overview
With thanks to funding from the Racing Foundation, Autism in Racing seeks to raise awareness of autism, educate racing’s workforce and customers about autism and will pilot autism-friendly sensory spaces on racecourses in the summer and autumn of 2021. Autism in Racing is a further example of the sport’s desire to promote equality, diversity and inclusion at all levels.
Who is involved?
The initiative was founded by horseracing broadcaster and commentator Bobby Beevers whose personal experience with autism led him to question how the power of horseracing could be utilised to raise awareness and ultimately support anybody with autism.
Under the banner of Racing Together, the sport’s community engagement collective, a collaborative support group was assembled to create and implement various roles to support Autism in Racing. The group is represented by the British Horseracing Authority (BHA), Racecourse Association (RCA), Diversity in Racing Steering Group (DiRSG), members of the racing media and includes cross-sport expertise from Arsenal Football Club, a recognised leader in this field within the football community.
An eLearning module housed within the sport’s Racing2Learn platform has been created to provide a sound foundation of knowledge into autism. The module has been written in collaboration with the Autism Education Trust who have subsequently endorsed the content. A certificate of achievement is available to all who complete the course successfully. The resource will be available, and promoted, to all who work within the sport.
Autism in Racing will be a feature within the Racing Together website and be used to share further educational content or news relating to the initiative. A Twitter account will provide live updates from the initiative.
Working alongside expert third party Immersive, autism-friendly mobile sensory spaces will be piloted at four British racecourses. Doncaster, Haydock Park, Musselburgh and Aintree will host a total of seven events on selected racedays, welcoming families living with autism to enjoy a day’s racing with the safe, sensory stimulus provided by Immersive. Subject to the learnings of the pilot, it is envisaged further mobile sensory spaces will be available for more racecourses in 2022.
The first pilot event took place successfully at Doncaster on 5 August; hear from Tim about his family’s experience here.
Quotes & Testimonials
Autism in Racing founder Bobby Beevers commented: “I honestly believe that this is one of the most exciting and unique projects our sport has seen. Horseracing is both diverse in its make-up and inclusive in the way we operate, and this initiative signals that we welcome everyone to join us.
“Since I approached BHA Chair Annamarie Phelps in March 2020, it is brilliant how far we have come and how the industry has rallied round to support the cause. I look forward to progressing with Autism in Racing and seeing it develop.”
BHA Chair and Autism in Racing group member Annamarie Phelps commented “I am delighted that, with this pilot programme in place, racing will be able to welcome families and individuals with autism to enjoy a day out at the races in a safe and supportive environment. It is our ambition to be a sport that is open and welcoming to everyone regardless of their background and any differences they may have.
“The mobile sensory room and the impact of the educational module will help open up racing to a new cohort of fans and extend our community. Enormous thanks are due to Bobby for his vision and hard work bringing together expertise and enthusiasm to make this possible. Special thanks to the Racing Foundation, Racecourse Association, and Racing Together and to the steering group.”
Emma Chantler, Programme and Content Manager at the Autism Education Trust commented “At the heart of the Autism Education Trust is the belief that good outcomes can only be achieved by working in partnership and it’s great to see the Autism in Racing initiative is opening conversations and spreading awareness about autism across the sport.
“By doing so they are helping our mission to create culture change in mainstream society by educating people about autism.”
Find out more about Autism-friendly racedays
Get in touch with Autism in Racing at email@example.com to receive details, dates and an application form.
Partners and supporters
A big THANK YOU to the following supporters and contributors for their help so far:
Inspired by the Shippey Campaign
Peter Shippey MBE and Kate Shippey MBE innovated the concept of sensory viewing rooms in sports stadia in 2014, after being inspired by their eldest son, Nathan, who wanted to watch live football.
As neurotypical parents to three boys with autism, they saw Nathan struggle with the noise and crowds, which highlighted a gap in provision. Nathan needed an appropriate environment in which to watch a live match. As a result, the Nathan Shippey Sensory Room was opened at the Stadium of Light, the very first of its kind anywhere in the world.
Since then, they’ve campaigned with others for their sensory room idea to be added to all stadiums. Their initiative is now in numerous sports and many countries worldwide.
Always remember… “everyone’s equal, everyone should have the same opportunities in life”