Judy Bowden on what Carclew’s Capacity Building Grant did for Lolly Jar Circus


In October 2021, Lolly Jar Circus received a Capacity Building Grant from Carclew to support the creation and delivery of a training course. Lolly Jar Circus is the only circus school in South Australia that is fully inclusive of children and young people with disabilities or at social risk, where the trainers are educated in disability and understand different learning styles and sensory needs and where the environment is accepting and not overwhelming.

Carclew recently reached out to Founder and CEO Judy Bowden to find out about what impact the grant has had on supporting the work of Lolly Jar.

“Although we had educated and upskilled them along the way, Lolly Jar Circus was growing and reaching more people and the trainers, management and board were all very keen to extend and formalise the trainer training process. The grant is ongoing, but two of the highlights so far have been a brainstorming exercise to come up with warm-up games that are inclusive in terms of the language and demonstration methods and a comprehensive presentation by Autism SA.

“We have since started playing warm-up games that would traditionally require people to run from one end of the room to another, but instead ask participants to move in different ways, like an animal or like they are flying, so that the emphasis is not on speed and participants who cannot run feel included. Participants who previously found games stressful are now more relaxed and engaged.

“The presenter from Autism SA came to our classes to evaluate our methods. Later she ran a session with the trainers including general education about autism as well as suggesting specific improvements to our classes. One that has been very helpful is having a small whiteboard to record the waiting list for the aerial equipment, which is only used by one person at a time, allowing participants to get on with the other activities without stressing.

“At the suggestion of the grant committee, Lolly Jar Circus has included other bodies in this process. We are looking forward to the next presentation, by a physiotherapist who specialises in disability, who will focus on physical disabilities. Cirkidz and Tutti staff will be taking part in this session. I feel that the grant has lifted our organisation to a more professional level. Trainers are better prepared for the challenges of our unique classes and it is our participants who benefit from that.” – Judy Bowden, founder and CEO of Lolly Jar Circus Inc.

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