This is why special events catering for people who need a quieter atmosphere are so important. I went along to one such event in London – the Science Museum’s Night Owls event. These sessions are advertised as ‘sensory friendly’ and are open to autistic adults aged 16 and over - a rarity as most events of this nature are usually for children and young teenagers.
The event began at 6.45pm on a balmy summer evening and gave visitors the chance to explore the museum and see parts of it that are usually only for paying members. The tickets for the event were free which is a bonus as cost can also be a barrier for some visitors.
One highlight of the exhibition was Wonderlab, which is an interactive play area packed with wonderful objects such as a mist machine, forces slide, and the best selfie mirror this blogger had ever seen!
Wonderlab is great fun as senses are split up into light, temperature, sound, touch and pressure - giving young autistic people the chance to feel the exhibitions and have fun at the same time. The Science Museum has always prided itself on its interactivity and the Wonderlab was no exception. Another great exhibition was the Information Age, which detailed the timeline of digital communication and even featured an interactive wall.
To carry on the interactivity there was range of activities all though the night for visitors to take part in. They included mission badges, stop motion animation, controlling a robot arm, designing new medicines, and various building and colouring stations. There were also talks - with one about growing produce on the moon proving to be very popular!
Several members of Ambitious about Autism’s Youth Council and Ambitious Youth Network took part in the Night Owls event – including Grace, Lewis, Charlotte and Dominic.
Grace volunteered to meet and greet people at the reception and to help them with any questions that they had during the night. She also had the chance to make a mission patch!
Some of the youth patrons also helped run activities. Youth Patron Dominic helped to run a designing new medicines activity - helping people put together their creations and answering any questions they had. It proved very popular. Lewis from the Youth Network was helping people build catapults and testing out the creations. Charlotte, also from the Youth Network, helped people create their own stop-motion animation using clay.
Sarah O’Brien, Participation Assistant at Ambitious about Autism said:
The autistic young people we supported chose the activity they wanted to co-lead and all had such an amazing time speaking about their interests with other visitors. Ideas like this give passionate autistics the opportunity to shine. Having such a large space open to so few people allowed much more exploration and navigation around the museum. Everyone was there for the same reason so there wasn't the usual fear of 'moving differently' or 'weird noises' because we're all there to celebrate autistic joy.
Clare Madge who is a consultant who works with museums to make them more autism friendly, said of the event:
Night Owls from the Science Museum is a perfect opportunity for autistic and neurodiverse adults and young people over 16 to enjoy the museum with a quieter environment. Numbers are kept low and there lots of activities to take part in across the museum galleries. Even if you just want to wander round the museum this is the perfect time for it. There is very little museum programming to support autistic adults and I hope to see more exciting events like this in the future.
For more information about the Science Museum’s Night Owls event, visit their website.
About the author
Solmaz is Ambitious about Autism's Marketing and Communications intern. She loves writing, and also has interests in music, technology and beauty products.