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Guest Focus - November 2016

Autism Nights at the Museum

Following the success of its “Early Birds” autism-friendly mornings for families with young children, the Science Museum in London is offering “Night Owls” evenings for young adults. Sevinc Kisacik, team leader responsible for the events, talks to Funworld about the program.

What led you to offer autism-friendly events for young adults?

We’d noticed that people with older children wanted to come to the “Early Birds” events, but some of the activities were not always suitable for young adults. We thought there must be a lot of young people on the autism spectrum who would benefit from an evening with us. We decided to open up a free “Night Owls” evening last November to cater to 16- to 25-year-olds. Around 80 people attended. The next “Night Owls” evening is Dec. 3.

What’s the format of the “Night Owls” event?

Like “Early Birds,” there are plenty of drop-in activities, which we’ve developed based on feedback. The evening is similar to our “Lates” adults-only program, but without all the people and noise that come with “Lates.” Many galleries are open to visitors.

Activities have included:

  • A guest speaker talking about how the telephone dial pad was developed
  • A sewing workshop where people could design and make mission patches that astronauts might wear
  • A soldering workshop
  • A sensory room with sensory equipment and materials and a coloring station based on mathematical images from Alex Bellos

What are the challenges of pitching an autism event to teenagers and young adults when their needs can be so different?

Ensuring there is a balance of activities for people of all abilities and interests. For example, visitors who used the sensory room may not have attended the soldering workshop.

What reaction did you get from “Night Owls” visitors?

All visitors praised the museum for offering a safe space for young people on the autism spectrum that catered to their different needs. People were so thankful and wanted to see more of these evenings planned more frequently. We hope to recruit a group of young people on the autism spectrum to help us shape future activities.