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Making museums more inviting for autistic children and their families

There's an interesting post today on Shots about a family with an autistic son visiting the Please Touch Museum in Philadelphia. The museum is one of more than 30 centers for learning and preservation that are taking steps (.pdf) to increase health awareness, including responding to the special needs of visitors with conditions such as autism or Alzheimer's. Jessica Naudziunas writes:

... it's not always easy to take a kid with autism out into the world, especially a museum. A recent tally found that 1 in 88 children in the U.S. is somewhere on the autism spectrum. For these youngsters, if a place doesn't have appropriate accommodations, museum-going is a no-go for much of their childhood. That's because so often, what seems like a fun diversion ends up causing feelings of anxiety and sometimes panic.

That's why some museums have made special accommodations. "During those hours the museum looks different," said Leslie Walker, Please Touch Museum's vice president for community learning.

Flashing lights are dimmed, and booming music is turned down. Kids who want a sense of security about their visit are encouraged to create custom schedules and maps beforehand. And museum employees who will teach kids about the exhibits go through sensitivity training to learn what needs a child with autism might have to interact like their peers.

Previously: Stanford study reveals why human voices are less rewarding for kids with autism, Director of Stanford Autism Center responds to your questions on research and treatment and A mother’s story on what she learned from her autistic son
Photo by Jim, the Photographer

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