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30 January 2024

Racing Together Autism programme inspires dedicated sensory room at Ascot

Back in December, 10 families paid a visit to Ascot Racecourse, for Racing Together’s final event of the year supporting autistic young people and their families at racecourses.

Alongside the opportunity to meet Father Christmas and enjoy the carols played by the brass band, the Racing Together team was in attendance with a fully kitted out sensory room provided by Ascot for the visiting families. Such dedicated areas provide a safe space for visiting families, with each unit made up of different areas, with over 250 sensory games as well as quiet zones – this set up was replicated in the room at Ascot.

The presence of dedicated spaces, whether a room or a unit enables families who might otherwise be put off by perceived or actual barriers to the sport, to enjoy a day at the races. Their use has been so successful and well received at Ascot that it has prompted the creation of a permanent dedicated sensory room at the course for visiting families, which was one of the objectives of the pilot work funded by the Racing Foundation.  

Jacqui Greet, Corporate Social Responsibility Manager at Ascot Racecourse said: ““Ascot Racecourse were again delighted to welcome families through the Racing Together Autism programme on our Christmas Family Raceday.  Having trialled the programme over the past year and reviewing the positive feedback, we are now planning to build a dedicated sensory room that will be open throughout the year as part of our ongoing commitment of encouraging new and diverse audiences to racing.  A big thank you to the charity for the proof of concept and for enabling us to welcome a new demographic of racegoers.”

The charity’s team, led by Samantha Luton-Hughes has delivered over 30 autism-friendly race days across the country since the work began and the feedback from the families that have used the facilities has been extremely positive.

One parent reported: “Samantha is a lovely lady and she spent time explaining about how horses are very therapeutic to autistic people. She was fantastic with the children and explaining how to use the sensory equipment. She is a credit to your team. Thank you.”

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This day marked the end of this phase of the pilot of Autism-friendly days. Owing to the hard work of the team, and the instigators and partners of the programme: Racing Together, the RCA and Bobby Beevers (who came up with the original idea) a number of racecourses have made the decision to install autism-friendly units as fixed assets, ensuring families will have the chance to enjoy a day of racing, whenever they choose to visit. It is hoped that more will follow and these facilities will be yet another normal offering to the community.

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