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All Access Guide to the Museum: Dementia

We believe museums should be fun and engaging for everyone, so in this month’s installment of All Access Guide to the Museum, we’d like to share some tips for creating an enjoyable visit for visitors with dementia.

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  • Plan your visit in advance through the DMA’s website to find information about parking, dining options, and more.
  • Take a load off! Wheelchairs are available free of charge on a first-come, first-served basis. All Museum galleries are accessible to wheelchair users and those who may want to avoid stairs.
  • You don’t have to see it all in one day! Plan to look at only a few works of art that spark your interest and take breaks to sit and reflect. General admission to the Museum is free and you can return again and again!
  • Consider the interests of the person you care for when choosing which galleries of the Museum to visit. You can explore the Museum’s collection online in advance, or see what catches your eyes when you arrive. If the person you care for has a special interest, try searching the Museum’s online collection for related works of art, such as “dog” or “Italy.
  • Spend time with a work of art. Begin by just looking and reflecting. Ask the person you care for to describe what they see using questions about things like colors or shapes. Encourage them to express themselves through movement, such as acting out the facial expression or pose of a portrait. Create your own story to go with a work of art.27800664023_4f799bba63_k
  • Bring some small sensory objects that connect to a work of art. For example, if you are admiring a beach scene, feeling a seashell may inspire more connections to the work of art. You can also listen to music with headphones or repurpose old spice jars into scent jars to evoke the smells of an object.1472657932-dmameaningfulmoments_al001
  • If the person you care for connects with a work of art, take note! You can revisit the object again from the comfort of your home through the DMA’s online collection. Print out images of the object and hang them up in the room of the person you care for, so they can revisit and enjoy them often.
  • If you prefer to plan your visit during non-peak hours, you may want to come September through May (Tuesday-Friday, after 1:00 pm). If you are planning your visit during Summer, Spring Break, or holidays, you may want to visit Tuesday-Friday, 11:00 am to 1:00 pm.
  • Some of our galleries are often less crowded and quieter than other areas of the Museum: Wendy & Emery Reves Collection, Decorative Arts & Design, Conservation Studio and Gallery, and Ancient American Art. A map of the Museum is available here. 17170929235_a4656f016b_k

We invite visitors with early stage dementia and their care partners to participate in our monthly art program on the third Tuesday of every month. Designed specifically for individuals with early stage dementia and their family members or caregivers, Meaningful Moments includes a gallery discussion, an interactive component, and an art-making activity. Participants will have the chance to relax and connect with art in the galleries, share stories, and gain inspiration.

You can find out more from our recent Meaningful Moments profile in the Dallas Morning News. The program is free, but reservations are required and space is limited. For more information or to register, call 214-922-1324 or e-mail access@DMA.org.

Emily Wiskera
Manager of Access Programs

All Access Guide to the Museum: Autism

For any visitor, going to a museum has the potential to be an overwhelming experience. Large crowds, new sensory experiences, an unknown environment, and expectations of best behavior can act as barriers to enjoying a day at the museum. This can be especially true for visitors with special needs. But is that a reason to avoid museums altogether? No way!

In this series, we’ll explore tips and tricks for creating a great Museum experience for visitors with special needs. First up in our All Access Guide to the Museum series is Autism!

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  • Reviewing a social story before your Museum visit may help your child understand what to expect. This can meet a need for structure and predictability, and help to reduce the stress or confusion your child may experience throughout their visit. Find a social story for your DMA visit here!
  • Make your visit child-sized and focus on just a few works of art that spark your child’s curiosity. Don’t feel like you need to see everything in one day. General admission to the Museum is free and you can return again and again!
  • Pass the reins to the kids and follow their interests! Let them choose where to go and what to see, then give their imaginations a workout. You might search for favorite colors or animals, act out a story you see in the artwork, or play a game of I Spy.
  • Children may prefer to sit and participate in quiet activities, such as drawing or playing a game. Find places within the galleries that allow for quiet time, such as one of the benches found around the Museum or open spaces to sit on the floor. Bring along a sketchbook and colored pencils to experience the art in an interactive way.
  • Take a break! Adding breaks to your Museum visit may help children spend more time touring the galleries and increase their overall enjoyment. Find a quiet place to take a break that is free of auditory, visual, and tactile stimulation. For example, the walls in the Ancient American galleries are a calm, muted grey tone complimented by low lighting. This creates a more soothing atmosphere for children who are sensitive to bright light or may become distracted with too much visual stimulation.

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  • Children are welcome to wear noise canceling headphones or listen to music during their time at the Museum. This may be helpful if they respond negatively to unexpected or loud noises, hold their hands over their ears to protect them from sounds, become distracted around a lot of sounds, or can’t work with background noise.
  • Allowing children to carry a small object or favorite toy during their visit may enable them to focus more fully.
  • Children who have sensory seeking tendencies may display a need to touch certain surfaces or textures. Providing them with opportunities throughout their Museum visit to touch and interact with exhibits may be helpful in increasing their enjoyment. Although the majority of items in the Museum should not be touched, a few galleries do include interactive elements, such as the playable thumb piano in the African gallery. For more interactive experiences, head down to the Center for Creative Connections on the first floor where you can visit Arturo’s Nest and the Young Learners Gallery. Both are “please touch” spaces where kids can crawl, explore, and play.
  •  If you prefer to plan your visit during non-peak hours, you may want to come September through May (Tuesday-Friday, after 1:00 pm). If you are planning your visit during Summer, Spring Break, or holidays, you may want to visit Tuesday-Friday, 11:00 to 1:00 pm.

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  • Visit the Museum during our next Autism Awareness Family Celebration, when we open two hours early for children with autism and their families to enjoy art together! Families can participate in art-making activities in the studio, enjoy an interactive performance by our music therapist, listen to an in-gallery story time, or relax in our quiet sensory room facilitated by occupational therapy students from Texas Woman’s University.

We hope to see you soon!

Emily Wiskera
McDermott Graduate Intern for Family and Access Teaching


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