Saturday, June 26, 2010

Asperger's and Museum visits

I have sent the following e-mail to the Science Museum, and a similar one to the Natural History Museum ...

Last Sunday, I visited the Science Museum with my three sons, aged 11, 8 and 6. We enjoyed our visit very much.

However, my son Joe (8) experienced a lot of difficulty with the visit. Joe has Asperger syndrome. He finds crowds hard to cope with and is hyper-sensitive to loud noise. His condition also means that he struggles to understand social protocols concerning queueing, taking turns etc, and becomes easily distressed. He became upset several times during the visit, including in the Launchpad [children's section with lots of hands-on stuff], due to sensory overload, crowding and social pressure. Joe's distress also made the visit difficult for his brothers. The Museum is understandably very popular and always busy, meaning that Joe would always be vulnerable to these problems on any visit.

I suspect that other visitors with special needs - both children and adults - might experience similar difficulties (and some will experience different difficulties). Others may feel unable to visit the Museum at all due to anticipated problems.

I would like to suggest that on, say, one Sunday each month, the Museum opens earlier for disabled visitors and their families only, to enable them to enjoy the Museum's excellent exhibits and facilities in a more quiet and relaxed setting. For example, I firmly expect that Joe would enjoy and benefit greatly from the Launchpad without large numbers of other children jostling to get to the many exciting activities. You could perhaps provide specialised staff support during these sessions and other appropriate facilities eg. parking.

Please give my proposal serious consideration and let me know what you decide.

Janine Booth