The Adelaide 500 will have a dedicated space to cater for those living on the autism spectrum and their families after a 12-year-old boy made the suggestion to the South Australian government.
The sensory space will help those enjoy the event with comfort, and will be set up near the ‘Family Zone’ at the corner of Dequetteville Terrace and Fullarton Road.
The idea was pitched by Nash Kirk-Clarke, 12, who had the opportunity to act as ‘Premier’ for the day earlier in the year.
While on duty, he met with Assistant Minister for Autism Emily Bourke.
“I went into the office and sat on the chair and they gave me this pin,” Nash said.
Nash told Ms Bourke he would like to create a space for everyone to enjoy the upcoming Adelaide 500.
“The racing cars can be really loud, they can be really loud for me too, so I use special headphones,” Nash said.
“That’s when I got thinking, a special sensory place like this would make kids happy.
“They can come here until they’re ready to go back.”
The SACARE Carer’s Lounge will also be a space where people can access medical requirements.
Noise is a ‘big factor’
Nash’s parents, Paula and Daniel met, at a concert at the Adelaide 500 in 2007.
Paula tripped over Daniel’s foot and he caught her before she hit the ground.
Since having Nash, the event is very important to the Kirk-Clarke family and the sensory space will make a difference.
She said Nash pitched the idea independently.
“Nash is really passionate, we’ve been teaching him how to advocate for himself,” Ms Kirk-Clarke said.
She said attending high-sensory events was a big deal for parents of children on the spectrum, so a sensory space would be a game changer.
“We have to plan ahead with autism about what works … having space is really important,” Ms Kirk-Clarke said.
“Nash has worked around things like the museum and Adelaide Oval.
“He’s very outspoken about inclusiveness.”
Minister for Human Services Nat Cook said it was a great initiative.
“There are many people with disability who love taking part in events that relate to their interests, but it’s not always possible for a number of reasons including noise and crowds,” she said.
“This new lounge will be a great break out space for anyone who just needs some time out from the excitement and on-track activity and public spaces of the next few days.”
Assistant Minister for Autism Emily Bourke said it was an important first step in making major events more accessible for all.
“I am honoured that as a government we have been able to fulfil ‘Premier Nash’s’ request, so families and members of the autistic and autism communities, like Nash, are able to attend this year’s … Adelaide 500,” she said.
“I am constantly hearing from families, the importance of being able to attend events as a family unit, though for many in the autistic and autism communities this is not always possible.”
Roads around the Adelaide 500 site including Dequetteville Terrace have been closed since November 26.
The Adelaide 500 is starting on Friday, December 2.