Engine Shed was set up by Richard Semmens in 2019, using his personal experience of autism.

“Following my autism diagnosis in 2015, I soon realised that there are few opportunities for autistic children to come together in the same way as children who do not have autism.

With my understanding of the sensory and environmental challenges faced by autistic people, I created a small community interest group of parents, autistic adults and autism professionals. We raised funds by completing a 10-day sponsored trek and launched a pilot project in early 2019. The aim of the pilot was to test our approach and consult with parents and children about what their needs are and how we could meet them locally.

Our pilot and subsequent research informs us that focussing on the special interests of autistic children is the key to unlocking their potential and allows them to develop their own skills, independence and sense of identity. The sessions are child-led and the children engage with other children in a way that they feel comfortable with. Research observations from the pilot shows that autistic children start to work together and develop team work skills, develop verbal and non verbal communication skills and developed a sense of belonging and feeling included.

We are very lucky to have a team of staff and volunteers who have personal experience of autism – being autistic themselves, the parents of autistic children or working with families of autistic children. They really understand the needs of the children and provide an understanding environment for them to enjoy their trains.”

  • See our What’s On page for details of our Engine Shed events around London and the South East.