Tag archives: cultural and heritage sector

Wednesday, 2 April 2014

Autism-friendly approaches for museums and libraries

WAADToday is World Autism Awareness Day, so an appropriate time to put down some thoughts about making libraries and museums autism-friendly for children and families, and give some links.

Museums and libraries can be great places for autistic children. They love learning more about topics they are fascinated in. Some love books and reading. It is vital to respect their needs.

Many autistic children are extremely anxious about new experiences, and value information prior to a visit about what to expect, including photographs or video. There’s an example below. Autistic children often find change very difficult and need routine, for example they may feel unsafe if they cannot use the same computer on every visit. Respect autistic children’s need for personal space and their difficulties with distractions. Some museums have a quiet room for children who are feeling overwhelmed.

As crowds are very difficult for autistic children, several museums and other organisations offer early bird sessions, quiet days or special events specifically for them, examples below. It’s important in such actitivites to minimise visual clutter, bright lights and loud noises which can all be distracting or frightening.

I have found these websites, articles and blogs etc very useful:

Friday, 21 February 2014

Supporting children with special needs in museums – effective provision and training

It was a treat to work at ss Great Britain yesterday. I gave a course on supporting children and young people with learning difficulties. The discussions about the needs of SEN children and the barriers to participation and learning they face were fascinating.  We identified lots of practical ways to help overcome them, and make provision for schools and families inclusive. There were some very exciting plans in pace by the end of the day.

Multi-sensory approaches make learning accessible to SEN children, things to see of course – artefacts, photos and films – but also things to touch, hear, taste and smell. I’m sure the cabin that smells of vomit on ss Great Britain is very effective! Handling collections are a big aid to understanding.

Museum of CuriosityThis photo is of Strathnaver Museum’s fantastic Portable Museum of Curiosity, the work of artist Joanne B Kaar, currently touring local schools. With the help of an outreach worker, pupils will use it as a springboard for creating a play on the history and heritage of the area, to be staged as part of Museums Galleries Scotland Festival of Museums in May.

Drama is wonderful for SEN children. Dressing up and role play bring learning alive. These are excellent ideas for everyone, not just SEN children, as the Strathnaver example illustrates. Story-telling is great too. Important to remember that while differentiation can be by activity or task, it can also be by outcome or by level of support.

Queues, crowds and lots of noise make visits during normal opening times very frightening for some children. I am very impressed by the autism-friendly events and opening times now in place on lots of museums. This series of blog posts by Tincture of Museum is very useful on autism-friendly practice.

With welcoming staff and provision geared to their needs, museums can be truly magical places for SEN children.

Wednesday, 12 February 2014

Special educational needs – training and ideas

curisoity kitOf all the training I do, the courses and inset I give on supporting children and young people with special educational needs are probably the most rewarding. I am always very moved by the tales that are told and the imaginative strategies that are shared.

I’ve illustrated this piece with a curiosity kit (thank you Lowton St Mary’s School in Wigan) because these sets of books, artefacts and activities are great for developing SEN – and all – children’s reading, learning and enjoyment. I’m a fan of Bag Books too for children with profound learning difficulties. Multi-sensory approaches and opportunities to engage and interact make learning much more accessible for children with special needs. Role-play and drama can be immensely beneficial.

I love delivering training on promoting reading to SEN children. It’s not just delegates who pick up new ideas. I’ve learnt so much from inspired teachers, TAs and librarians – creative ways to engage children who struggle with reading. It’s a privilege to be able to pass on great practice. I’m giving a course on this in Wiltshire tomorrow and have several open courses coming up.

I have started getting requests for courses specifically for special schools on supporting reading, and it has been fascinating to design and deliver this new area of training. The discussions at a course last week for schools in Northern Ireland were amazing, and I am looking forward to more in Surrey next month.

In fact I can’t remember a time when so much of my training has been on SEN related themes. I really enjoy providing courses on supporting children with learning difficulties in museums, so I’m delighted to be running one on ss Great Britain next week. We’ll be discussing lots of wonderful inclusive ideas. And I’m very excited to be going to Qatar in March to give three days of training for library, museum and archive staff, one of them on working with SEN children. It is always a treat to give training for school and public library staff on special needs. Libraries offer so much for children who find learning difficult.

Saturday, 18 February 2012

Children in museums and galleries

I have just caught up with a very interesting piece about children and culture that was on Woman’s Hour last Thursday. Jeanette Winterson, Rosie Millard and Jenni Murray talked about the value of taking children to museums and galleries, and ways to make visits interesting. All saw avoiding boredom as vital, hardly surprisingly. Rosie Millard has some lovely ways of making gallery trips with her four children playful. Crucially, they never stay very long, and they only look at a few artworks. They buy postcards and then hunt out the pictures, they play compare and contrast games, they use paintings as the basis for story-telling. (A picture of Charles II on his horse has led to lots of enjoyably gruesome discussions about his execution.) The Grayson Perry exhibition, The Tomb of the Unknown Craftsman, on at the British Museum for just one more week, has been a big hit with children. Items in it like badges fascinate them, but it’s the irreverence and humour of lots of the exhibits that especially appeals. Much food for thought for me in all this in relation to my family learning courses.

Millions of children have never been inside a gallery, museum or theatre. Winterson and Millard were both adamant about the importance of school visits to cultural organisations.

Thank you for the photo to the Royal Albert Memorial Museum and Art Gallery in Exeter, which runs fantastic family and school events.

Thursday, 26 January 2012

Effective provision for teenagers in museums, libraries and other arts and cultural organisations

There was a great Twitter discussion launched by Cultural Themes this week about good teenage provision. Look for the tweets dating from 24 January, or check out the complete archive. The discussion focused on museums, but lots of the strategies that were shared are equally relevant and useful in libraries and other arts, cultural and heritage organisations. I give training courses on working effectively with teenagers in these sectors, and thoroughly endorse the ideas.

Incidentally, for anyone who does not know it, Kids in Museums is well worth keeping an eye on for tips on good practice with teenagers as well as children and families. Public and school library staff can find loads of information and case studies of good practice on Teen Librarian and YA Library UK.

I took the photo at a great Warhammer workshop run by Redbridge Library Service. It’s a regular event which attracts lots of young people. One of the reasons for its success is of course everyone’s active engagment, a vital key for good teenage provision. If you are interested, you can find all my blog posts about this and other issues concerning work with teenagers here.