Can sensory gallery guides for children with sensory processing challenges improve their museum experience?
Blake, Amanda B.
Shelffo, Kathleen E.
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Children routinely visit art museums as part of their educational experience and family time, many of them having special needs. The number of children diagnosed with autism and sensory processing disorders is increasing. These conditions may include heightened sensory avoiding or seeking behaviors that can interfere with a child’s ability to benefit from museum visits. Environmental modifications and sensory-based treatments are commonly used to support children with sensory processing disorders, but museum environments or programs cannot always lend themselves to being altered to provide optimal results. This research explored whether museum gallery guides for sensory avoiders and seekers could be utilized with children with sensory sensitivities to help them prepare for and participate in museum experiences. Results showed combining both sensory avoiding and seeking gallery guides into one sensory friendly gallery guide can have a positive impact on a child’s museum experience. To achieve success, sensory gallery guides must be developmentally appropriate, provide structure for a gallery visit, facilitate active thinking, looking, and discussion, and showcase interesting gallery spaces providing a variety of sensory-rich objects.