TNMOC wins prize to develop Relaxed Openings for people with autism

Stephen Fleming, Palam Communications  |  Published: Jul 24th 2017

The ‘relaxed openings’ initiative for people with autism and their families at The National Museum of Computing on Bletchley Park has just been boosted by a Museums and Heritage Prize.

The prize money will be used to further develop the Museum as an autism-friendly venue, especially through the creation of a pop-up chill-out zone especially designed for those with extreme Autism Spectrum Disorder (ASD).

Launched in February this year, the relaxed openings proved so popular that Head of Learning at TNMOC Claire Marston decided to run them regularly. The next two relaxed openings are on 28 July and 25 August 2017.

Claire Marston explained: “We realised that the Museum offers people with ASD a fascinating visitor experience, but that the whirring noise and flashing lights of our vintage working computers could be disturbing and akin to sensory-overload. So, we launched our relaxed openings at the start of the day before the museum is fully open to the public -- and the feedback has been terrific.”

Visitors during the relaxed opening sessions know that the Museum will be less busy and that staff will be particularly alert to their needs. Sensory maps are available in advance, so that visitors know exactly what unusual sounds and sights to expect in particular parts of the Museum.

One visitor gave an insight into ASD: “Our boys both loved it. Ordinarily, after a few hours one son is on edge, on the verge of overload. They say living with autism is like living life in a disco. Museum staff were patient, understanding, and tremendously knowledgeable, explaining things in an accessible way.”

Another showed the challenges faced by some families: “It makes a huge difference to families like mine to be able to get out.”

At no extra charge, relaxed opening visitors can explore the museum, take part in drop-in activities, enjoy Augmented Reality and family trails, learn coding and enjoy the chill-out zone.

To keep numbers at an appropriate level, relaxed opening visitors are asked to register in advance. Contact claire.marston@tnmoc.org. The next relaxed openings will be on 28 July and 25 August 2017 from 10.30am to noon.

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