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Popular program offers free access for families of children with an autism spectrum disorder, who are deaf or hard of hearing, or are blind or visually impaired.
ACTON - Discovery Museum has announced 2019 dates of their Especially for Me series of free events for families with children with an autism spectrum disorder who are deaf or hard of hearing, or are blind or visually impaired. Upcoming events will take place in the new and fully-accessible museum building that opened on March 1, 2018.
The program offers families facing similar challenges an opportunity to play together while the museum is closed to the general public or at times when capacity is limited in order to improve access. Because admission is free, families may come and go based on their child’s needs without concern for cost. Parents also have the chance to meet other families in similar circumstances, thereby reducing feelings of isolation often described by families dealing with special needs.
The program has grown significantly since it began in 2010 with four events that served 323 visitors. In 2018, the museum held 24 events and served 2061 visitors. Annually, the museum serves approximately 25% of its audience for free or reduced cost, which amounted to more than 48,000 people in 2017.
Resources appropriate to each event are provided. These may include accessible programming or American Sign Language (ASL) interpreters. Additionally, food including gluten-free options is provided for all evening events. Noise reducing headphones, museum story guides, and a sensory map are available to all visitors at all times.
The ADA-compliant museum building was renovated and expanded last year and all exhibits are accessible and designed according to Universal Design principles to be both aesthetically pleasing and inclusive of the widest possible range of people.
The museum works with various local organizations to serve Especially for Me audiences, provide trainings for museum staff on topics of inclusion, and provide on-site programs and resources as needed. These include the Boston Children’s Hospital Deaf & Hard of Hearing Program, Autism Alliance of MetroWest, Perkins School for the Blind,The Learning Center for the Deaf, Ann Alexopoulos Speech Therapy, Pets and People Foundation, and Up Beat Music Therapy.
This year, the museum has partnered with The Learning Center for the Deaf’s Center for Research and Training and Unstoppable Design Studio to provide staff trainings and programs related to accessible making and tinkering.
All Especially for Me events are free to attend, but preregistration is required. Dates and registration links can be found online at www.discoveryacton.org/efm.
Free Sensory-Friendly Afternoons (during public hours, but no school groups or birthday parties will be scheduled at this time) are on the following Tuesdays, 1:30 – 4:30pm: January 8, February 5, March 5, April 2, May 7, June 4, October 1, November 12, and December 3.
Free Autism-Friendly Evenings (closed to the public) are on the following Saturday evenings, 5:00 – 8:00pm: January 5, February 9, March 9, April 27, June 1, July 13, September 28, and November 16.
Free Evenings for Deaf, Hard of Hearing, & KODA Children (closed to the public) are on the following Saturday evenings, 5:00 – 8:00pm: January 26, April 13, August 10, and November 2.
Free Mornings for Deaf, Hard of Hearing, & KODA Infants and Toddlers (closed to the public) will take place 9:30am – 12:30pm on Monday, March 25 and Monday, October 7.
Free Visually Impaired Family Evenings (closed to the public) will take place 5:00 – 8:00pm on Saturday, May 11 and Saturday, October 19.
Especially for Me is part of the museum’s Open Door Connections program to provide opportunities for those who face a variety of barriers---financial, developmental, or cultural---to experience the Museum. Open Door Connections and Especially for Me are funded through grants provided by Foundation for Metrowest, DCU for Kids Foundation, The Sudbury Foundation, Boston Bruins Foundation, Nathaniel and Elizabeth P. Stevens Foundation, Concord-Carlisle Community Chest, Nypro, Inc., Mass Cultural Council, Staples Foundation for Learning, and the Local Cultural Councils of Carlisle, Chelmsford, Clinton, Concord, Harvard, Lexington, Maynard, Newton, Shirley, Southborough, Tewksbury, Waltham, and Weston.