Explore-Abilities at the Children’s Museum
When my children were quite young, I tried to take them to places other little kids liked – parks, malls, the Children’s Museum at the Forks.
Unfortunately for us, while my friends’ children were happy to run around and play and explore, my children found busy spaces quite overwhelming. Lots of noise, lots of stuff to see and process, and difficulties with communication made play spaces challenging spaces to enjoy.
For the last couple of years, though, the Children’s Museum has been working on an alternative. Explore-Abilities is a program to make sure the museum is as accessible and fun as possible for people with autism, sensory processing disorder, and other disabilities.
Accessibility Every Day
Over the last few years, the Children’s Museum has worked with clinicians and families to adjust the museum environment and create supports to help all children feel comfortable.
Every staff member is trained to better understand and support children with autism. There is a quiet room available for those who need a break. Ear protectors, sunglasses, and fidget toys are also available for those who need or would like them. The museum has also created a guide to the museum that parents can use to plan ahead and prepare their children.
The museum also offers wheelchairs and Video Relay Services for the Deaf and Hard of Hearing.
For the safety of all children, adults over the age of 18 must be accompanied by a child. However, the museum recognizes that some adults with developmental disabilities also enjoy visiting, and so they offer an alternative. Visitors older than 18 should check in at the front desk and will be given a guided tour of their favorite areas along with free admission. For visits longer than a half hour or for groups, it’s best to call ahead and schedule a visit. Regular admission rates apply for groups.
Adding accessibility options is a continuing work in progress, so if you have any ideas that you think could be helpful, you can contact Erin McIntyre, Director of Education and Exhibits, at (204) 924-4003 or firstname.lastname@example.org.
Saturday Morning Events
On certain Saturday mornings from 8-9:25 am, the lights are down, sounds are muted or turned off, and the museum welcomes children and their families to enjoy the space in a quieter, less busy, low-stress environment. Visitors are welcome to stay past 9:25, but at that time exhibits are returned to their usual state and the museum opens to the public.
Admission is free, but you need to register.
Explore-Ability mornings for 2018 are on the following dates:
- March 24
- April 21
- June 16
- August 11
- October 20
- December 29
Registration is online and the form can be found here.
Thanks to Erin McIntyre at the Manitoba Children’s Museum, who was interviewed for this post.