Archive for the 'Autism' Category

Friday Photos: Mexican Modernism for All

Are you looking to add to your teacher-toolkit, collaborate with other educators, and discover what’s new at the Dallas Museum of Art? Be sure to sign up for our Educator Newsletter so you don’t miss out on special opportunities for teachers at the Museum!

We recently wrapped up our final teacher workshop of the school year, Mexican Modernism for All. Inspired by the exhibition México 1900–1950: Diego Rivera, Frida Kahlo, José Clemente Orozco, and the Avant-Garde, this workshop introduced learning strategies to teach, interpret, and use works of art in the classroom and in museum galleries. In partnership with Stacey Callaway, Ph.D., this workshop also introduced adaptive strategies geared to incorporate students with autism spectrum disorders into art classes, projects, and museum visits. Workshop participants created their own scent jars, sensory boards, and brainstormed mess-free adaptations for a studio mosaic project. Here’s what our participants had to say about the program:

The strategies for looking at art were helpful. I enjoyed the time with the artwork.


I found doing the different prompts as we walked among the artwork really helped make a connection in how to implement observing and thinking about art in the classroom. Also being able to walk away with so many resources! Everything was above and beyond.


Doing an outstanding job as always! Love the bilingual labels [in the exhibition].

Not only did workshop participants enjoy themselves, DMA programs for teachers are accredited by the Texas Education Agency and may be taken for Continuing Professional Education hours, unless otherwise noted. That’s a win-win!

We hope to see you at our next event for educators! In the meantime, be sure to take advantage of DMA Family Day this Sunday, and check out the wonderful exhibitions at the Museum this summer.

Lindsay O’Connor
Manager of Docent and Teacher Programs


Friday Photos: Autism Awareness Family Celebration

Happy, sad, angry, or excited – we all have feelings and emotions. During our July Autism Awareness Family Celebration, families explored moods and expression at the DMA before public hours.

Hands-on art making in the Center for Creative Connections

Hands-on art making in the Center for Creative Connections

Relaxing in the sensory room with occupational therapy students from Texas Women's University

Relaxing in the sensory room with occupational therapy students from Texas Women’s University

Play time with hula hoops, streamers, and parachutes in the courtyard

Play time with hula hoops, streamers, and parachutes in the courtyard

Acting out different emotions with an actor from the Dallas Children's Theater

Acting out different emotions with an actor from the Dallas Children’s Theater

Check out our website for information about the next Autism Awareness Family Celebration!

Emily Wiskera
Graduate Intern for Family and Access Teaching

Friday Photos: Light It Up Blue at the DMA

The DMA has offered programs for children with autism and their families for the past four years, but this April marks the first time that we’ve participated in Autism Awareness Month by turning our lights blue. The global initiative, led by Autism Speaks, is called Light It Up Blue and has the goal to raise awareness about autism by inviting thousands of buildings to shine blue lights throughout the month of April. Light It Up Blue kicked off on April 2, World Autism Awareness Day. Be sure to check out our lights through the end of the month!

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Amanda Blake
Head of Family, Access, and School Experiences

Accessible Teamwork

We love collaboration here at the DMA, and when it comes to teamwork, Texas Women’s University occupational therapy students are fantastic additions to our team! Since 2009, the DMA has held quarterly-occurring Autism Awareness Family Celebrations for children with autism and their families to enjoy activities in the Museum before it opens to the public. For the past two years, we have been lucky to partner with TWU’s occupational therapy students led by Dr. Tina Fletcher, OTR, EdD, MFA. The students host the TWU Sensory Room during every Autism Awareness Family Celebration and they transform our Tech Lab into a quiet space filled with weighted vests, therapy balls, tunnels, and resources for families.

Dr. Fletcher is an invaluable partner to the Museum’s Access Programs as she attends the Meaningful Moments program as well as every Autism Awareness Family Celebration and advises us on best practices. Dr. Fletcher is unique in that in addition to being a professor of occupational therapy, she is also an Autism Specialist as well as an artist – she brings many perspectives to our Access Programming! This year three of Dr. Fletcher’s students are working with us on research and evaluation related to our Autism Awareness Family Celebrations – their projects involve creating and testing social stories, creating and testing gallery guides written specifically for children with sensory issues, and researching the way that parents think about the Museum.

TWU Occupational Therapy student Ana Antonetti volunteering at our recent Autism Awareness Family Celebration

TWU Occupational Therapy student Ana Antonetti volunteering at our recent Autism Awareness Family Celebration

One of Dr. Fletcher’s students, Ana Antonetti, is conducting research about parents’ perceptions of the DMA. Ana has been a part of recent Autism Awareness Family Celebrations and we are excited to learn about her research results. We would love to have your assistance in helping us to improve on our programming for children with autism! Please see details below from Ana about how you can help:

The Dallas Museum of Art is collaborating with Texas Woman’s University to conduct a study comparing the perceptions of parents of children with and without autism spectrum disorders about participation in museum activities.

The information gathered will be used to help the DMA with program development and accessibility.

To be able to participate in this study you must be a parent of a child that has participated in activities at the DMA in the past OR a parent who is interested in having their child participate in Museum activities. Your child must be age 18 or younger.

Please follow this link to complete the questionnaire:

Thank you!

Amanda Blake
Head of Family, Access, and School Experiences

What is Accessibility?

The DMA, as well as other museums and cultural institutions across the country, have been tackling this question in the hopes of creating environments that are safe, open, and comfortable for a wide variety of people. Primarily, accessibility is thought of as a physical construct: a museum is deemed accessible if it holds no physical barriers to entry. Ramps, elevators and similar architectural structures are essential components for accessibility, providing individuals with and without mobility issues easy entry into any type of building. Removing physical boundaries is a key first step towards addressing the accessibility question.

A family participating in an Autism Awareness Family Celebration at the DMA

A family participating in an Autism Awareness Family Celebration at the DMA

But then what? How does accessibility extend inside museum walls? Museums strive to ensure that their collections, programs, and services are accessible to all audiences, often by providing diverse educational programs that cater to visitors of varying abilities. When we think about teaching at the DMA, we think about inclusive experiences that are open to everyone, regardless of a person’s ability. While making learning experiences at the DMA open and accessible to all is important, we also believe that designing individualized experiences for a range of needs is important too. And we hope these special programs raise the awareness that art is for everyone, though some visitors may need to work in different ways to see and enjoy it.

Meaningful Moments participants in the gallery

Meaningful Moments participants in the gallery

Our Access Programs provide these individualized experiences for visitors with special needs. Interactive gallery experiences and hands-on art making opportunities are available for adults with developmental disabilities as part of our partnership with The Arc of Dallas, as well as for adults with dementia and their care partners during our Meaningful Moments monthly program. For families and visitors with autism spectrum disorders, we organize a specialized summer art camp for children as well as Autism Awareness Family Celebrations throughout the year. These multi-sensory programs and events involve tactile opportunities and art-making activities that enable visitors of varying abilities to discover and appreciate artists and their works of art. During the month of October, we participate in Art Beyond Sight Awareness Month and focus on helping visitors enjoy art using senses beyond eyesight.

John Bramblitt talking about his works of art to summer campers

Artist John Bramblitt talking about his works of art to summer campers

The DMA is an Art Beyond Sight Partner and is proud to have participated in programming for Art Beyond Sight Awareness Month each October since 2007. Composed of leading institutions in 35 states and 25 countries, Art Beyond Sight Awareness Month is an outreach effort dedicated to promoting art education for people with vision impairment and building an inclusive society with improved access for all. This year, we were excited to expand our offerings to include programs for adults.

John leading a homeschool class for ABS month in the DMA's galleries

John leading a homeschool class in the galleries

Artist John Bramblitt joined several ABS programs this month to talk about his process as a blind painter. Our October First Tuesday was focused on the senses and the Museum’s youngest visitors had the chance to immerse themselves in a sensory experience in Arturo’s Nest, our space for children under the age of four. John led Studio Creations in early October to kick-off a month of ABS-themed weekend art-making. He also led this month’s Meaningful Moments for visitors with Alzheimer’s disease and he will close our month of experiences by teaching our homeschool class. In our Arturo’s Art and Me class for children aged 3-5, kids got to paint in the dark to experience sightless painting and our Arc participants had the chance to wear blindfolds to paint with their fingers!

Visitors experience John Bramblitt's Sightless Painting activity

Visitors experience John’s Sightless Painting activity

In addition to these experiences, John led a public gallery talk for adults, during which he shared images of his artwork, talked about his process, and provided insights into his subject matter. And during Late Night last Friday, John teamed up with Stephen Lapthisophon in an artist’s lecture. Both artists have visual impairment, and both approach painting in a completely different way.

John’s process is very detailed and planned out, with various techniques that he employs for raised lines. John uses raised lines to sketch the base of his drawing first – some of the lines are raised for only a short period of time while others remain raised to allow John to feel the contours of his drawing for a longer amount of time. After he drafts his lines, John adds many, many layers of paint. For Stephen on the other hand, art-making is a social art and isn’t highly technical.

Both artists have varied creative inputs as well. Much of John’s artwork is representational and a reflection of an internalization of his sensory world, while Stephen’s artwork is more about the experience of his senses as he is creating (often with food and text) which could be a reflection of society and the associations of his materials. Each artist spoke a bit about his process and then each had the chance to sit down for a conversation together before taking questions from the audience. The artists had the chance to ask questions of one another and it was interesting to hear them contrast their processes and to get their takes on how other senses play a strong role in their own art. This program was an opportunity for visitors with visual impairment to meet and talk with John and Stephen. The lecture ended with a woman who has been blind for five years asking advice from the artists about her own art. Each artist gave her some ideas and encouragement before meeting with her after the lecture to continue the conversation.

Visitors with vision impairment talking with John Bramblitt and Stephen Lapthisophon after their Late Night artist lecture

Visitors with vision impairment talking with John and Stephen after their Late Night artist lecture

The Access Programs offered by the DMA are essential components in creating welcoming, accessible environments, but there is still more to be done. What other types of resources can and should be made available to visitors?  Let us know what you think and be sure to check back in the future as we delve deeper into this matter.

Danielle Schulz
Teaching Specialist

Amanda Blake
Head of Family, Access, and School Experiences

Art and Access at the DMA

April is Autism Awareness Month and autism-focused events, fundraisers, walks, and lectures abound all over the country. While most people have likely heard of autism, Autism Awareness Month highlights the growing need for awareness and promotes ways to support and accept people on the autism spectrum. Chances are that you know of someone with autism, since an autism spectrum disorder occurs in about 1 in 88 individuals.

Autism is different for everyone. Symptoms may include mild challenges for those who are high functioning, while others may have more severe symptoms affecting their daily life. Because it’s difficult to predict the behavior of children with autism, parents can feel intimidated bringing their child to an art museum and tend to be more comfortable participating in specifically designed activities alongside other similar families.

The DMA’s Autism Awareness Family Celebrations, which take place throughout the year, provide a safe, comfortable way for children with autism and their families to experience the Museum together. In the Center for Creative Connections, families can participate in gallery experiences, enjoy an interactive musical performance, explore hands-on activities in the courtyard, relax in a quiet sensory room run by occupational therapy students from Texas Women’s University, and create works of art in the C3 Studio – all before the Museum opens to the public.

We work closely with an autism specialist and Autism Speaks to plan programming for Autism Awareness Family Celebrations, taking into account the specific needs of the audience and the innovative tools available in C3. This invaluable partnership results in the creation of customized social stories about visiting the DMA, which are sent to parents in advance of each event so they can talk through the visit with their child at home.

Many parents note that after attending an Autism Awareness Family Celebration, they feel more comfortable with their child in a museum setting. One such mother, Jennifer Linde, had trouble finding opportunities for her family to be creative together and interact alongside other families. Her goal as a mom is to teach her son with autism, Alex, how to be as independent as possible. Jennifer never considered taking her two children to a museum because of Alex’s behavioral issues. After discovering the Autism Awareness Family Celebrations at the Dallas Museum of Art, Jennifer  now feels differently. The events give her family a wonderful opportunity to allow her son to develop his social skills and explore new interests while not worrying about the reactions of other people, something she says is often an issue for their family. The Linde family attends most Autism Awareness Family Celebrations and Alex has participated in our summer art camp for kids with autism for the past two years.

Alex loves to draw and usually draws machines and robots–never figures–in black and white. At the Autism Awareness Family Celebration in April 2011, Alex participated in sketching in the galleries and then went to our courtyard to experience music by the Dallas Symphony Orchestra, where he saw kids using streamers to move to the music. After the performance, Alex returned to sketching and created another drawing. His mother was overjoyed when she saw what he had drawn: figures all over the paper with streamers–in color! It was a magical morning for the Linde family. Check out photos of Alex below – including his colorful streamer drawing!

We are excited be in our fourth year of offering Autism Awareness Family Celebrations and our third year of offering a summer art camp for kids on the spectrum. Our next event happens this Saturday, April 6, and is themed around music and nature with a special performance by a violin duo from the Dallas Symphony Orchestra. We look forward to seeing families connecting with one another and with works of art while having fun together at the DMA!

Amanda Blake
Head of Family, Access, and School Experiences


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