Tag archives: multi-sensory learning

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

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.