By Brad Boardman, MAC Executive Director
Morgan Autism Center continues the successful partnership it forged with Children’s Discovery Museum (CDM) in 2012. At that time, museum staff reached out to the center for advice about an event they wanted to host specifically for families affected by autism.
In order to ensure that their event would be successful, CDM assembled a task force made up of parents and community service providers. This group of people met with CDM staff to brainstorm a list of necessary tools, strategies, accommodations and trainings to make for an engaging, supportive and positive learning experience at the museum.
“We learned that children with autism … might avoid a bustling, noisy museum and often require careful preparation before venturing to a crowded public space,” CDM Business Development Manager Donna Butcher said.
Initial meetings identified multiple areas to target including providing quiet areas, creating social stories to prepare individuals for a new experience, exhibit tweaks, possible outdoor areas, food issues and — of course — staff training. CDM took the advice of parents and community partners very seriously.
Morgan Autism Center was included in the staff and volunteer training phase of the preparation. It has now held two evening trainings (most recently in January) to discuss autism, some of the possible challenges for visitors and how staff and volunteers can help make museum visits successful.
“The result of the staff training that you (MAC) did was an increased comfort level and better understanding for the autistic community as a whole and a greater level of understanding for the visitors who come through our doors,” Butcher said.
She continued: “This helped our staff not only for the Play Your Way events but the snowball effect from these events has resulted in more families with autism visiting the museum during regular hours, so the staff are better equipped to make their visit a joyful success.”
Since 2012, Children’s Discovery Museum has hosted six Play Your Way events (with a goal of three per year), designed for children with autism — ages 2 through 15 — and their families. The events were made possible by the participation and support of the following community partners: San Andreas Regional Center, HOPE Services, Aspiranet, Guadalupe River Park Conservancy, Pacific Autism Center for Education, Morgan Autism Center and Parents! The next event is scheduled for April 12.
It has truly been exciting for MAC to be a part of these Play Your Way trainings. CDM staff and volunteers are an extremely engaged and inquisitive group of people — just what you might expect from people involved in a museum! Their obvious desire to serve the entire community, in the end, is what makes these events so successful.
Want to attend the next Play Your Way event? Purchase your ticket TODAY!