89.1 WEMU

creative:impact-The Growing 'My Turn' Program At The Ann Arbor Hands-On Museum

Apr 3, 2018

Diversity, Equity, Inclusion & Accessibility.  Since The Americans With Disabilities Act was passed by Congress in 1990, accessibility has fortunately moved beyond a check list of "must meet" requirements to a desire to work towards making arts and cultural facilities and programs accessible to the broadest possible audiences.  And, it has not been by mandate.  The Ann Arbor Hands-On Museum's 'My Turn' program is an example of this shift.  In 'creative:impact' this week, you'll meet Larissa Kunynskyj and Gwen Dunlop.  Larissa is the Accessibility Programs Coordinator at the Hands-On Museum.  Gwen is a parent whose personal experience led her to found and operate Aim High School to serve those on the autism spectrum and to help inspire the 'My Turn' program.  

A note from Larissa Kunynskyj, the Accessibility Programs Coordinator at the Hands-On Museum.

My Turn, was created by AAHOM for families affected by Autism Spectrum Disorders (ASD).  My Turn offers families affected by ASD a less sensory stimulating, crowd-free environment to explore popular venues at their own pace and in their own way, including hands-on activities designed for those with ASD.

My Turn provides online prep materials for each program, such as social stories and picture schedules.  Each venue also offers families a designated quiet room that includes a sensory tool kit with weighted lap pads and tactile toys.  My Turn is managed by AAHOM in collaboration with community partners from the arts and culture community.

My Turn is offered on the second Sunday of each month and rotates between partner locations.  After many internal discussions and extensive feedback from parents and teachers, we came to realize it was no less than a priority to make our facility more accessible to traditionally underserved audiences.  “We heard feedback that there’s a tremendous sense of isolation for families affected by ASD,” said Mel Drumm, executive director, Ann Arbor Hands-On Museum.  “They tend not to go to public places like museums for fear that their children’s behavior will be disruptive.  My Turn addresses and overcomes this fear by opening our facility, and those of our partners, on a regular and systematic basis specifically for ASD families.”

An initial partnership with Aim High School culminated in a pilot program called “Morning at the Museum,” which took place at AAHOM in September 2015.  There was significant planning for this program, including preparing special exhibit labels, an online guide, and a training for Museum staff and volunteers led by Dr. Roger Lauer of the Center for Neuropsychology, Learning & Development.  Our efforts were very well received and “Morning at the Museum” was an unqualified success.  We immediately realized that our ASD friendly program needed to not only be repeated, but expanded.

Thanks to generous grant funding and after successfully joining forces with University of Michigan Museum of Natural History, Ann Arbor Symphony Orchestra, University of Michigan Museum of Art, Therapeutic Riding, Inc., and Leslie Science & Nature Center, “My Turn: A Sensory Friendly Sunday” was born.

The Ann Arbor Hands-On Museum is a champion of collaborations and partnerships that inspire children and their families to explore and discover the wonder of science, technology, engineering, art, and math (STEAM).  That commitment is underscored by our dedication to serving children of all abilities, and to understanding how different members of our community think and experience the world around them.

Non-commercial, fact based reporting is made possible by your financial support.  Make your donation to WEMU today to keep your community NPR station thriving.

Like 89.1 WEMU on Facebook and follow us on Twitter

— David Fair is the WEMU News Director and host of Morning Edition on WEMU.  You can contact David at 734.487.3363, on twitter @DavidFairWEMU, or email him at dfair@emich.edu