Museums are fantastic places for learning about history, art, culture and a variety of other subjects, but, unfortunately, some have a reputation for not being very child-friendly.
Taking children, especially those with autism to such establishments might seem like an overwhelming proposition, but with the right approach and proper planning; parents can turn it into a memorable experience for the entire family.
Before you go
Choose a hands-on museum.
Children, in general, and those with autism, in particular, like to touch everything they see. Hence, the quickest way to engage them is at a museum that features hands-on or interactive exhibits.
Luckily more and more institutions are replacing their old-fashioned showcases with interactive exhibits, so chances are there are quite a few of these establishments in or close to where you live.
Take a virtual tour.
Since many museums offer virtual tours on their websites, it is best to start any introduction by having your child with autism watch one.
By observing your child’s reactions to the presentation, you will be able to gauge whether your child might or not be interested in that particular museum.
Virtual tours are also a way of familiarizing your child with the exhibits and different museum areas. It can prevent a situation of driving to the place and purchasing tickets only to discover your child with autism isn’t interested in viewing anything and insists on leaving.
Expand the interest.
Before visiting the chosen museum, you should start the conversation, discussing the museum theme like art or science and expand your child’s interest through books and movies.
Plan to go off hours,
Call the museum and ask the staff when the place is the least crowded so avoid potential frustration for your child if there‘s a long wait for any of the exhibits.If you plan to visit during the summer months, it is best to go after 3 PM when the local summer camp kids have left, and the museum is quieter.
Download a map.
Nowadays, you can download a floor map from most museum websites to help you navigate the sections you are planning to see especially if the museum is too vast to explore in a single visit.
Make sure to mark any restrooms and quiet areas on the map to know where to go if it is necessary.
Behavior in a public place.
Reiterate to your child that listening to and following staff directives is vital at all times since the museum is a public place and the staff is responsible for the safety of the public and the integrity of the exhibits.
When you are there
Ask for a discount.
More and more museums are starting to offer family rates and or disability discounts, so it does no harm to ask before purchasing your tickets. If the museum is close to where you live, consider buying an annual family membership.
Such a pass would enable your family to visit several times and enjoy the museum even if the first visit or two don’t go as planned and need to be cut short.
Ask for a docent tour.
If your child with autism is inexperienced with visiting a museum, find out if there are paid staff members or volunteer docents who can conduct a private highlights tour.
Suggest that your child takes photos of all the artifacts with their iPhone or iPad so they can relive their visit experience. Furthermore encourage your child to create a scrapbook and share their story with their classmates to enhance their involvement.
Don’t attempt to ‘see it all.’.
If your child is young or gets bored quickly, you might want to limit your first few visits to 30-60 minutes as long visits might stress your child and become counterproductive.
If you think your child is enjoying the visit, try to break the stay up by having a snack or lunch break in the cafeteria or picnic area before re-entering.
Have you taken your kid with autism to museums-come share your tips!