Museum caters to kids on the autism spectrum
The Montreal Museum of Fine Art (MMFA) is helping make visits easier for individuals on the autism spectrum and their families. Autistic children 6 and older can borrow a bilingual Sensational Supply Pack filled with resources to help make the museum experience more comfortable and enjoyable.
Individuals with autism spectrum disorders (ASD) may have unique sensory needs and can become overwhelmed by sights, sounds, and crowds. Introduced in April 2022 in conjunction with World Autism Awareness Day, the packs aim to create an inclusive and welcoming environment, help ease anxiety, and enhance communication.
Each pack includes creative materials, sensory items that can be manipulated and used for self-soothing, a map of the galleries, and four activity worksheets centred on works from the collection that stimulate the senses of sight, sound, and touch. Noise-cancelling headphones and sunglasses are also included to help lessen sensitivities to auditory and visual stimuli.
Presented in a way that is simple and playful, the activities were developed in collaboration with community partners including Autisme sans limites, Autism Speaks Canada, and local schools and centres working alongside neurodiverse children and adults. The activities and tools encourage creative minds as they observe works of art, explore the environment of the museum at their own pace, and develop their curiosity and appreciation of the arts. The activities can also help spur participants to reflect on their feelings as they encounter different works of art, and encourage communication between the participants and their companions.
MMFA offers inclusive programming
Since 2015, the MMFA has prioritized access for visitors with autism through its accessibility and inclusion program, The Art of Being Unique. The program was created with the MMFA’s education department in partnership with Les Petits Rois, a foundation that supports children 4 to 21 who are living with intellectual disabilities and/or autism and attending specialized schools.
The program created a framework of ongoing activities at the museum for neurodivergent children and young adults including guided visits, creative workshops and art therapy, and socio-professional integration internships. The museum conceived the Sensational Supplies Pack with the aim of extending this program to a wider public and prioritizing people with ASD access to self-directed visits.
“This new initiative is the fruit of research and expertise developed over the years in collaboration with the ASD and scientific communities. The Sensational Supplies Pack will greatly enhance visitors from the Montreal community’s ability to take part in a positive and rich experience of the senses as they encounter great works of art at a museum that has achieved a new milestone in its accessibility and inclusivity,” explained Mélanie Deveault, Director of Education and Wellness at the MMFA during the launch of the packs.
Families can borrow The Sensational Supplies Packs for free with a reservation, between 10 and 11:30 a.m. on the day of the reservation, from Tuesday to Saturday, and must be returned no later than 2 p.m.
Reservation of the Supply Pack includes free access to the museum for the child and their family (maximum of five people per family). A staff member will be on-site to welcome visitors and help them kick off their discovery of the museum’s collection. Once they’ve picked up their pack, families can explore with the help of worksheets and prompts to manipulate the different objects found in the pack.
For more information, visit mbam.qc.ca.