Posts Tagged 'Autism Awareness Family Celebrations'

Friday Photos: Playing Dress Up

On October 1, the Center for Creative Connections opened early for our last Autism Awareness Family Celebration of the year. We had a Funky Fashion Station in the Studio where we made wearable art; an activity exploring the outdoors in Fleischner Courtyard; and a relaxing sensory room in the Tech Lab. We also had fun connecting with works of art using props and costumes in the galleries, and enjoyed an interactive musical performance in C3 Theater. Arturo joined in, warmly greeting all the families that came to celebrate. It was amazing to see the joy not only on the children’s faces but on the parents’ as well.

Be sure to check out the 2017 Autism Awareness Family Celebration dates, and then sign up for our newsletter so you don’t miss out!

Marta Torres
McDermott Graduate Intern for Visitor Engagement

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

A (Warm) Winter Wonderland: Autism Awareness Family Celebration

This past Saturday, we had the first Autism Awareness Family Celebration of the year. Our theme was snowy weather, which was a fun contradiction to the sunny Texas forecast that we had for the day. Families who attend every Autism Awareness Family Celebration joined first-time families for a fun morning in the Center for Creative Connections making pom-pom snowflake paintings in the studio, relaxing in the TWU sensory room, sketching from works of art in the galleries, and gathering resources from Autism Speaks. Check out all of the DMA’s access programs online at DMA.org.

Amanda Blake is the Head of Family, Access, and School Experiences at the DMA.

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: https://www.psychdata.com/s.asp?SID=156983

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

Autism Awareness at the DMA: A Father’s Perspective

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Four times a year we host an Autism Awareness Family Celebration at the Museum for children with autism and their families. Families have fun together at this special event in the Museum’s Center for Creative Connections for two hours before the Museum opens to the public.

In April, we recognized Autism Awareness month with an April 2 Autism Awareness Family Celebration in collaboration with the Dallas Symphony Orchestra. The morning event focused on music as Jaap van Zweden, Music Director of the Dallas Symphony Orchestra, and his wife, Aaltje van Zweden-van Buuren joined us. A Dallas Symphony Orchestra string quintet performed, and Jaap van Zweden talked about movement as he waved a colorful streamer in the air along with children. Aaltje van Zweden-van Buuren shared a compelling story about her family’s experience using music therapy with her son, an individual with autism.

I had the joy of talking with an enthusiastic and involved father at our recent event; Denny Singh is clearly his son’s number one fan.

Denny and Sohan

What three words would you use to describe your family?
After my son’s diagnosis:  strongER, as in “what doesn’t kill you makes you . . . “; closER, as in redefining the word “love” and spending more time together; and MORE appreciative of what many take for granted, like our son playing with a friend.

What types of activities does your family enjoy together?
Shopping while letting my son take photos of stores (his current obsession), visiting museums and the aquarium and zoo, going to water parks, and hanging out with his beloved cousins.

What is unique about your son?
His quirky, outgoing personality (e.g., asking people about their rings and jewelry), his grasp of technology and working a smartphone better than his parents, his empathy and ability to care, and his effort to overcome challenges and inspire us to be better people while guiding us on this unexpected journey.

What do you like most about the Autism Awareness Family Celebrations? 
To borrow from a Visa commercial:
Admission to the Autism Awareness Family Celebrations: Free
Additional expenses like supplies for crafts and fun activities: Free
Creating a safe environment where families and their children are welcomed, supported, and valued: PRICELESS

Have the events changed your perception about visiting an art museum with your family?
The events have empowered our family to be more involved in the community and not be afraid of activities or environments because of autism. And just as important as the event are the tickets given to families for a follow-up visit to the DMA any other day like any other family.

The most recent Autism Awareness Family Celebration was focused on music. What is the role of music in your family? 
Music plays an important role in our family, especially for our son. He loves music and all instruments, which he knows by heart (confusing a clarinet with a bass clarinet is a no-no!). While riding in the car, he asks to listen to a specific CD over and over again. Other parents tell me this isn’t just an autism thing, although his memorizing eighteen songs by number is! For those with autism, music has been shown to teach language and improve overall functioning.

Sohan and his family meet Jaap van Zweden

Do you have any advice about visiting museums for other parents who have a child with autism?
JUST GO!!! Regardless of your child’s “level of functioning,” he or she deserves the opportunity to experience the beauty and culture of the arts. As communities become more inclusive and welcoming, it is our duty as parents to take our children out into them. Take it slow at first to make a visit a positive experience for all. Most of all, remember, “a journey of a thousand miles begins with a single step.”

I eagerly look forward to seeing you at the next Autism Awareness Family Celebration at the DMA!

Denny, Su Chen, and Sohan with Jaap van Zweden

Amanda Blake is Manager of Family Experiences and Access Programs.


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