Tag archives: learning difficulties

Wednesday, 7 March 2018

Supporting children with learning difficulties in museums and libraries – useful websites, blogs, case studies and videos

ss GBI loved giving training on special educational needs at the fabulous ss Great Britain earlier this week. I give lots of courses on supporting children with learning difficulties for people working in museums and other cultural and heritage organisations, and lots for library staff too. It’s one of my favourite (and most frequently requested) training topics. I feel very passionate about inclusive provision.

I have found the following websites, blogs, case studies and videos useful and illuminating, and it occurs to me that others might too.

ABC of Working with Schools: Special Educational Needs
Asperger, Heritage and Archaeodeath
Astro Plane Force
Autism-Friendly Game Masters
Autism-Friendly Libraries
Autism in Museums
Autism in the Museum
Bag Books in Kent
Chatterbooks for Children with Dyslexia
Dimensions Autism Friendly Libraries Training Video for Library Staff
Disability Co-operative Network for Museums
Engaging Children with Special Educational Needs in Creative Experiences and Art 
Five Things I’ve Learnt About Accessibility
Going to a Museum
How Can Your Museum Better Welcome Families and Young People with Autism?
How Heritage Embraces Autism
Inclusive Galleries and Museums for Visitors with Special Needs
Kent Dyslexia Friendly Libraries
KidsHub Library Sessions
Making Museums Autism Friendly
Manchester Art Gallery Open Doors
Museum of Childhood Quiet Days
Museum of Childhood Visiting with an Autistic Child
Orleans House Gallery Octagon Club
Secret Museum: Film Production with Autistic Young People
See Dyslexia Differently
Sensitive Storytimes
Supporting Children and Young People with Special Educational Needs
Tom’s Tall Ship of Stories
Top 5 Autism Tips for Professionals: Autism-Friendly Museums
Working with Special Needs in an Art Gallery

Wednesday, 8 June 2016

Supporting children with learning disabilities

I’ve just been putting together the handouts for a course for on effective provision and support for children with learning disabilities, a topic I feel passionate about. We will be exploring the needs of children with a wide range of learning challenges, the barriers they may face with learning and participation, and the implications, before going on to identify ways to maximise engagement, learning and enjoyment. This particular course is for a museum, but I also give lots of training on special needs for other cultural and heritage organisations, and for schools and libraries, and I find that many issues are common to all.

whistestop tourA Whistle-Stop Tour of Special Educational Needs by Clare Welsh and Rosie Williams is no longer in publication, though copies are still to be found. I have always found this section from it very pertinent and helpful:

‘As far as working with pupils with SEN is concerned, we must look at our assumptions and be prepared to challenge them.

  • the assumption that pupils will be at the same developmental starting point
  • the assumption that pupils will have the same knowledge
  • the assumption that because pupils have experienced something before, they will automatically remember it
  • the assumption that all pupils can understand the language that is being used around them
  • the assumption that pupils will have the gross or fine motor skills to carry out certain tasks
  • the assumption that all pupils enjoy social interaction
  • the assumption that all pupils will understand and respect standards of behaviour’

Wise words. Assumptions and stereotypes are dangerous things. Every child has different needs, even if they have the same diagnosis. A flexible, listening approach is vital. So is a calm environment in which every child feels safe and supported. Many children with learning difficulties have very high anxiety levels. Change, in particular, can be scary. For children on the autistic spectrum, and plenty of others, providing information – preferably with photos – in advance so they know what to expect from new experiences and new places makes a huge difference. Noise, crowds and clutter are very stressful for some. It’s great that lots of cultural and heritage organisations now offer specific activities or opening times to support children and families for whom these are a problem.

Like other children, most children with learning disabilities love getting involved. I will blog another time about inclusive participation strategies and the value of multi-sensory approaches.

Friday, 27 February 2015

Supporting children with learning difficulties in museums – my course in Qatar

tileI felt immensely privileged and touched to be given this tile by a delegate on the UCL Qatar course I gave last week on working with children with learning difficulties in museums. It was made by a young Qatari man with very severe learning disabilities. His needs were not met by school, but working with an artist in a cultural organisation released his abilities, and enabled him to express himself. What a fantastic illustration of the positive impact arts and cultural engagement can have on SEN children.

I had an amazing time in Doha delivering the training. The delegates came from five different museums, one of them well-established, the others all in the planning stages. Because the course was five days long, we were able to explore issues in depth. There were so many fascinating and important debates about the needs of children with all sorts of learning problems and the implications for engagement with museums, and about effective methods for supporting their learning and enjoyment. It was great to have time to share a wide range of case studies. We talked a lot about autism-friendly approaches. I found the discussions on multi-sensory learning especially interesting, and the plans groups produced for inclusive activities and events were truly exciting. The lists of components of successful practice that each delegate came up with on the last day were extremely impressive.

3D printsWe were very lucky to have the use of some wonderful artefacts commissioned by UCL Qatar. These 3D prints of the lid of an Egyptian canopic jar are amazing. They are different weights, sizes and finishes to enable a variety of learning methods. A fabulous way for children to experience history.

And these puppets, based on two very special and precious exhibits in the Museum of Islamic Art, made by the Little Angel Puppet company, and ably demonstrated here by Annie Rowbotham from UCL are superb. They are used to help children learn about conservation. The children ask the monkey and falcon questions, and the answers come via a ventriloquist. Such a brilliant idea. They are also going to play a role in museum story-telling events. Approaches like these can be totally transformative for children who struggle with learning.monkeyfalconMany thanks to all the great delegates and to Qatar Museums and a big thank you to UCL for inviting me back to Doha. It’s a stunning city, so to end, a few photos: the souk, the royal camels against the inevitable background of cranes (they’re everywhere in Doha), two shots from the extraordinary falconry souk, some dhows, and the beautiful Museum of Islamic Art.souk at night 2camelsfalcon - souk 1falcon - souk 6dhowsMIA

Saturday, 29 March 2014

Courses on working with children in museums – my training in Qatar

MIAI finally have time to reflect on the training I gave in Doha for UCL Qatar earlier this month. What a privilege to work there. The training venue was the stunning Museum of Islamic Art.

The museum scene in Qatar is very exciting, with lots of new institutions in the planning stages, including an amazing Children’s Museum. Although it has no building yet, staff are already doing ground-breaking work. My training was primarily for museum practitioners, from there and other museums, but I was delighted to have some library delegates too.

The first course was on provision for babies and under 5s. We talked about early child development and the role of cultural organisations in supporting it. There were great discussions on effective activities for families with young children, and lovely ideas for making them enjoyable and fully participative.

Day two was on working with primary age children. I loved the debates about how children learn, and ways to engage them and break down barriers to use – not least that there is not yet a culture of museum visits in Qatar. Some brilliant plans were made for supporting formal education and family learning.

The last day’s course was on working with children with special educational needs. The discussions on learning difficulties and strategies for nurturing SEN children’s learning and enjoyment were excellent. I was tremendously impressed with the initiatives delegates devised and are going now to put in place – wonderful inclusive, multi-sensory, interactive approaches.

Working in Qatar was an extraordinary opportunity. I learnt so much and met fascinating people. Many thanks to everyone for making me feel so welcome.

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.