A Sensory Morning at The Walters Art Museum
December 12th, 2010
About the Event
Museums and other such cultural settings are too often intimidating, and as a result, inaccessible to families with kids with special needs. Kids with Autism, Asperger’s Disorder, and Sensory Processing Disorder are often overly sensitive to light, sound, touch, and movement. Some kids act out impulsively, and can have difficulty with transitions between, and within, environments. The idea of going to a museum setting, with the environment beyond their control, is often not a priorty for the families that take care of children with these sensitivities. This project allowed families to attend a museum event without feeling pressured or uncomfortable. Therapists collaborated with the Walters staff to make the museum environment ‘friendly’ for our kids with sensitivities to light, touch, sound, and movement.
The main exhibit was by photographer and children’s author, Walter Wick. This author of the “I SPY” books could not have been a more appropriate exhibit for our kids to explore! http://thewalters.org/exhibitions/walter-wick/
The Walters staff and Embrace volunteers were wonderful! Around 20 adults and 25 kids registered for the event. Families commented on how “relaxed” they felt, and how long it had been since they had been able to enjoy a museum setting.
We observed families sitting on the floor with their children as they explored the tactile “treasure” bins, finding objects they could also see in the photographs. Children had fun using laminated picture cards to ‘spy’ one object at a time in Wick’s pictures. Many creative clay robots were made in the private studio setting during arts and crafts time, and sensory breaks were taken in the large, dimly lit, auditorium.
Here are a few comments from families that attended:
"Hope, Caitlin and Andrew had a great time. We all enjoyed our time at the event. We were very impressed with all the staff you had available. They were all very kind and helpful. Thank you so much for the invite."
“We had a wonderful time. Our children enjoyed the exhibits and creating art themselves. Adam - our 10-year-old who talks all the time as you may have noticed - wrote comments in every book on every floor he could find. He loves sharing his opinion about everything with everyone. He later talked about our trip to the museum to my parents from Poland via Skype and proudly presented his (and his brother's) piece of art to them. Adrian - our 8-year-old who doesn't talk too much - kept his opinions mostly to himself, but we know he loved the event as well. Overall we had a really nice family time. Thanks again for inviting us!”