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Parents of Children on the Spectrum Share Their Museum Experiences 02-25-13

February 25, 2013 from 10:00AM–12:00PM

Hosted at The Metropolitan Museum of Art by the Museum Access Consortium and the National Autism Association New York Metro Chapter

Rebecca McGinnis: Good morning, everyone! I think we're going to go ahead and get started but do please feel free to refresh yourselves, caffeinate, have more sugar at any time throughout the morning, ok? I'm Rebecca McGinnis. I oversee access and community programs here at the Metropolitan Museum of Art and I'd like to welcome you all here. We are delighted to be hosting this workshop on welcoming people with autism spectrum disorders to our museums and thank you all of you, parents who are participating in this workshop. We really appreciate your input and we'll learn a lot from you. Before I hand over to Cindy to introduce the day, I just wanted to mention that the Met has a program called Discoveries, which some of you know about, for children and adults with developmental and learning disabilities and autism spectrum disorders. The program has been running for something like 25 years, but it's something that we're always looking to learn and develop and we have been working especially really as a result of the MAC initiative in large part to making the MET more friendly and welcoming to people with autism spectrum disorders. I'm looking forward to learning a lot. I just wanted to say pick up a brochure and one other thing is that we just launched in December an online resource for parents of children with autism spectrum disorders and adults with ASDs to help to make the museum more welcoming, more user-friendly and to help people prepare for a visit and we would really welcome all your feedback. It's something we've just started and we'd appreciate your thoughts on it. Without further adieu, please let me introduce Cindy VandenBosch who is going to tell you a little bit about MAC and about the morning. Thanks!

Cindy VandenBosch: Thank you, Rebecca, and thank you so much to the Metropolitan Museum of Art. We're really grateful to have a venue and a place to host this event. My name is Cindy VandenBosch and I'm the manager of a program that we're running for three years focused on improving the experiences and making museums and cultural institutions of various different types more welcoming to people who have autism and also their family members and caregivers. And so, we're really grateful–to echo what Rebecca said–we're so grateful for the parents that are here today.

By way of introduction though, I'd like to describe a little bit about what the Museum Access Consortium is and does. We are a volunteer-based association and we bring together individuals that are from cultural institutions, but also from the people that have experience with disability or from the disability fields–we try to bring these groups together to discuss how we can make museums more welcoming for everyone. And so, we have over 100 cultural institutions that are represented as part of our network, also service organizations, educational institutions, design firms, consultants, exhibit designers. So, through professional development workshops and other types of educational opportunities, we try to provide opportunities for collaboration and dialogue. We define accessibility broadly to include architectural, physical, programmatic, communication, attitudinal, and other forms of access. And we take as a basic tenet that increasing accessibility for people with disabilities increases access for everyone and makes experiences more enjoyable for all of us.

This workshop, as I mentioned, it's part of a three-year long series and we have partnered up with various partner organizations for many of these workshops focused on improving access for people who are on the autism spectrum. We are really thankful to the FAR Fund for making this possible and Shirlee Taylor, can you wave your hand back there? So this is Shirlee Taylor and she's here from the FAR Fund and has been very engaged in this program and in this workshop series, and we're so pleased to have her at every single workshop and we thank you so much. This is in fact MAC's very first grant. We've been around for over 15 years and it's been a volunteer effort but yet we have a three-year grant now, which has increased our capacity to offer 12 workshops on this very topic. This today is our sixth workshop in that series of twelve and I recognize a lot of people in the room who have been to most of those workshops, if not all of them. But I'd like to see by show of hands just to gauge which types of cultural institutions are represented in the room. How many people are here from art museums today? Ok, so about I would guess, maybe a quarter of the room. How many people are here from historic sites or history museums? So maybe about 10 people. And how many people, raise your hand if you are here from a science museum? [In sad, quiet voice] Oh, we have one science museum (laughter). Where are you coming from?

Audience member: From the zoo.

Cindy: Oh, from the Central Park Zoo! What about the botanical gardens, do we have anyone here today maybe from the gardens or the park system? No, ok. Anybody who is from a cultural institution but I didn't call out the type of cultural institution that you're from? Yeah?

Audience member: The New York Public Library.

Cindy: From the New York Public…That's right, of course! So the New York Public Library is here today. Is there anybody else? No? Yeah? Jessica?

Jessica: I'm a teacher.

Cindy: A teacher, ok. And where are you a teacher?

Jessica: The Lavelle School for the Blind.

Cindy: The Lavelle School for the Blind. Ok. Who else do we have here today? Oh, actually let's get the…

Audience member: Hi, I'm a researcher in the blindness field and I work for Bridge Multimedia, which makes television accessible for people who are blind or visually impaired, and we're thinking also kids with autism, so we're trying to find that out.

Cindy: Do we have anyone else here from say a school? We are going to introduce…Oh, yes!

Audience member: I'm from Cane University, I'm Gillian Furniss and my focus is art education and autism.

Cindy: Ok. So, welcome to all of you and welcome to the National Autism Association–New York Metro Chapter. This all came together today. We started a conversation with Kim Mack Rosenberg and Peggy Becker, who are the President and Vice President of the New York Metro Chapter of the National Autism Association, probably about a year ago with the idea of bringing together parents for a conversation like we're going to have today. This, as I mentioned, this is the sixth workshop that we've had in this series and we spent a lot of last year bringing in clinicians, educators to educate us on autism, on the history of its diagnosis, on therapies and approaches in the classroom and how we might apply that to our work in the museum field. But this year, we've really had a focus on hearing from people who have autism themselves. So our last workshop, we partnered up with the organization called GRASP, which is comprised of adults who are on the autism spectrum, and we heard from adults who have worked in or volunteered or visited museums and they shared their experiences and stories, and it was incredibly helpful. That was about a month ago. And now today, we get to hear from parents and their experiences of taking their children who have autism spectrum disorders about what it's like going out to cultural institutions in the city. And so I'm going to pass it over to Kim Mack Rosenberg and Peggy Becker to provide a little bit of an introduction to the National Autism Association New York Metro Chapter and the work that they do in the city, as well as to the parent speakers that we have here today. Thank you so much!


Kim Mack Rosenberg: Thanks, Cindy and Rebecca, and thank you all for coming this morning! We're really excited to be partnering with the Museum Access Consortium to bring this workshop together. NAA New York Metro is an all-volunteer organization run mostly by parents, some grandparents, and some professionals, which has as its main mission to empower people with autism spectrum disorders and their family to reach their fullest potential. And what we do are a number of things: we have educational programs that run on a monthly basis, sometimes multiple times a month. Two hour presentations that we bring professionals in on all kinds of issues relating to autism. We have parents and professionals attend those. We do special workshops. We have a parent mentoring program which pairs up parents who have a lot of experience in different aspects of autism with families who need some one-on-one support. We help fund a summer program for a couple of weeks in the summer, when kids have that break between the end of the year-round school program and the start of the next school year so that the kids have that continuity. We're able to do that at $50 or $75 charge for an entire week. We're very proud of we've been able to do as volunteers and the reason we've been able to do a lot is because of an incredible supportive base of parents in the city who volunteer either on a one-by-one basis or work really hand-in-hand with us to make everything happen. And we're excited to be here and Peggy is going to introduce the parents who volunteered today.

Peggy Becker: So thank you to all of the parents who volunteered to do this. We think it's going to be really, really constructive. I'm just going to go around and say their name, the name of their child, and the age of their child. But could you guys raise your hands when I mention your name, please?

Ken Siri has a son named Alex Siri and he's 14, Ken's son is 14. Holly Kane has Julian who is 15. Beth Rosenberg has Jack who is 14. Norene Chin has Michael who is 9. I'm Peggy Becker and my son Daniel is 14. Kim has Henry who is 13. Susan has Ana-Francisca who is 11. Mary and Paul Johnson have Andrew who is 22. That is all of our parents, I believe.

Kim: Beth!

Peggy: Oh, Beth!

Beth: One more!

Peggy: Why aren't you on the list? Sorry!

Beth: I was a little late.

Peggy: Sorry, Beth Latimer! And she's one of my best friends. [Laughter] Beth Latimer has Thomas who is 14, is he 15 now?

Beth: In a couple more weeks, almost 15.

Peggy: Almost 15. Thanks everybody!

Cindy: So I'm just going to introduce the structure of the small group discussions. Because while we've done a lot of panel discussions in the past, we've been hearing from people that have attended the workshops that they really want to dig in and share experiences and have it be more interactive. And so this is one of the first times that we've done a workshop in this fashion. Thank you for participating in this experiment.

At your tables, each of you have a facilitator at your tables. At table number one over here, we have Danielle Linzer who is standing with the camera over here. And then at table number two is Meredith Wong from the Jewish Museum and she's over by table number two. Table number three we have Lori Stratton who is facilitating. So that's table number three at the back. Table number four is Barbara Johnson. And table number five. Where is our facilitator for table number five? Oh, there you are! Miranda, who was checking people in, Miranda Appelbaum will be facilitating at table number five. What the facilitators will be doing, they'll be opening up introductions. We'd like those to be brief introductions to have everyone introduce where you're coming from and a little bit about yourselves and if you're one of the parents, a little bit about your child, and then we're going to have the parents share their own experiences and they'll have the floor for about 20-25 minutes. We ask that, if possible, if you can refrain from asking questions until you know that both parents have had the time to really express themselves and share their stories, their experiences, their viewpoints. One of the things about that is we will hear examples and want to hear examples, by the way, both about the parents and your childrens' experiences that have been very positive and memorable and meaningful at cultural sites and also some of the visits that maybe didn't go as well as you had hoped. In those cases, what might have helped to improve those situations? Now for the representatives from cultural institutions in the room, some of those examples might be specific to certain museums but as we all know, some of these scenarios could play out probably in most of our institutions. So let's take this as an opportunity to use that example to learn from–for all of us–it's not just about that one institution; it's something that could happen at any of our institutions. There will be that sort of sharing, the parents will talk for that 20-25 minutes. After that, you see that you have flipcharts on your table. We ask that together you engage in a session where you discuss reflections. What have the listeners at the table absorbed and learned? And put them down on paper because we're going to try to document this as much as possible. Also, questions that popped up for you. There might even be bigger questions that we should address at another workshop. Think of that as a kind of parking lot for some of the bigger issues that you might not be able to tackle together today. And then the sheet underneath it is the next step, which is ideas and best practices. For the museum professionals, talk about the programs you're thinking about doing and bounce it off the parents. See what they have to say, write down what you learn. And then we're all going to report back. I'll go around and see how we're moving along, but we'll probably get back together and share out with both the parents having the opportunity to speak and one representative in the group from the museum field to talk about your conversation and what you've been learning with the rest of the room. We'll probably do that around 10:20. Oh sorry, not 10:20. It's 10:25 right now. 11:20. Thank you so much and enjoy your conversations. And I'll be coming around to turn on smaller recorders because again we're trying to document as much as possible to share with other museums.

[Groups break out for approximately one hour of small group conversations]

Cindy: We have a couple of minutes– two minutes left–for small group discussions and then we're going to report back to the room. So if you can identify someone in your group who can summarize in fewer than five minutes your conversation, some of the highlights, what you took away from the conversation. We'll go around and summarize in that way and then we also want to hear from some of the parents and what they're really taking away from the experience. If you can identify someone in your group, that would be great and just wrap up.

Cindy: Ok, folks. We're going to wrap up now. I know there's probably so much more to say and share but we're going to do it collectively in the room so that we can hear–I walked around the room and there were different kinds of conversations taking place–and I'm looking forward to having you all share. Are there any brave souls that want to step up? Ok, I'm going to start over here with table number five. And if you can do me a favor, so this part - while we had the smaller audio recorders, we'll probably be listening to those and writing down some of the things you discussed to share more broadly. But for the recording, from this point forward, please be sure to speak into the microphone if you're contributing to the broader discussion in the room as this will be posted on the Museum Access Consortium website. Introduce your name and your institution, if you are here representing an institution.

Audience member: This is Brigid Cahalan from the New York Public Library. I think we had a really fascinating discussion. I'm sure everyone else feels that way as well and what I liked to hear about were the new terms that I learned. For instance, social stories. Maybe you all know what that is, but it's preparing someone ahead of time for what they're going to see, including things like “this is how the entrance looks,” “this is what the security guard will be doing going through your bag,” [chuckle in room] and that's a great idea for libraries and probably every place, as well as museums. And we also brought up the idea of taking advantage of particular skills, like perhaps the ability to remember a lot of facts, to absorb and remember facts, and have a teen docent program using children on the spectrum with that type of skill. Also, things like, staff training for all, that everyone at an institution has to be aware of what might happen and what to do about it. A place to go, a safe place to go where children can express themselves physically. Also things like, let's say in a library, which might be in a museum or a public library, having things like a–we have something called tumblebooks that will give visual, that you can look at books, which may have to do with an exhibit or not, and you can see them moving and you can turn the pages and you can hear audio. This would be a way to reinforce or prepare children for perhaps a storytime or to go over a storytime or a book connected with an exhibit of some sort. Those are a few highlights.

Cindy: Thank you so much, group number five. What about another group! Oh, yes! We'll go with group number four. Maybe we'll just go backwards.

Audience member: Hi, I'm Aaron Feinstein. I'm representing ActionPlay. We do training and program development for museums and cultural centers to meet the needs of children with autism and special needs. This was also a very, very awesome, productive, fruitful discussion, and some of the reflections we came up with were: a clear message of welcome makes a difference, to be able to just say that you're welcome at any institution so when a parent calls, they know that they're invited. And a positive and understanding attitude helps lower stress levels. That applies to the welcome. Advance info, virtual tours, Ken suggested the idea of using virtual tours so that a child would be able to experience some element of the museum before they actually step into the museum. Suggestions for self-guided tours as well. And we brought up that a lot of times parents can be hesitant to ask for programs and resources and a lot of it is that they just don't want to be rejected in the process of asking about it. We brainstormed and thought about solutions of how one when they call the museum or look on the website, how they can plan their visit. Have clear info on the website about sensory-friendly spaces, quiet entrances, etc. The Visitor Center also, possibly using a visual tool so that people can know that this is a sensory-friendly environment. Some of that also came up when we spoke about language just in general. Is this “autism-friendly”? I think that limits lots of learning disabilities, various syndromes that would also want be able to use this space and would want to use the information as well–so not to be limiting in the language. Small groups in spaces that are physically protected so that parents can have information about where they can go in the museum so they can have the best experience. Also, to connect with organizations in New York City, like the NAA–New York Metro Chapter, I think Resources for Special Children was brought up, which are great organizations that get the information out. As well as multi-modal opportunities, hands-on activities, physical movement, ways that kids can be active and involved in the space. Thank you.

Cindy: Thank you so much, group number four! [applause] Alright, group number three!

Audience member: Hi everyone, I'm Jenn Candiano, I'm the Associate Coordinator of Autism Programs at the Queens Museum of Art. So, we had a really lively discussion that focused a lot around teen programming and we talked a little bit about how to advertise and market programming and to use not necessarily market towards people with autism by saying autism in the title. A lot of teen groups, we talked about having alternative parent groups at the same time. A question that we had was whether parents should be involved past 12 years old and our parent coordinators had the idea that a parent group at the same time in another space would be a good alternative. So, some programs within the museum that teach job skills and just the general need for more teen programs. We also took some time to think about the times and the days of the programs. We had some conflict between is it better on the week or the weekends? The consensus was that weekend afternoons was best for a teen program. Also, thinking about tactile experiences while being in the galleries, so having something for children to hold on to while they're in the galleries and an experience to relate to the artwork. While they're going around, having something to refer to while they're looking at the art. And last–two other things were the visual schedule–so how important that is to structure both the educator, the parents, and the children during the programs. Using the visual schedule–a visual schedule just maps out what's going to happen throughout the session in a numbered format with simple words and maybe a picture drawing to show what's going to happen. Children can cross that off during the group. Social programs. We talked about teen programs to be more social-based and just a place for kids to come hang out and open up your institution that way.

Cindy: Thank you group number three!


Audience member: I'm Mayrav Fisher. I work at the Guggenheim Museum and a lot of what was said here we also talked about so I will only add things that were not mentioned. I think we started off with this big question of whether cultural institutions should think about creating special programs for families with children with special needs or work towards universalizing our experiences that are offered to the general public to families with children on the spectrum. And that was an interesting conversation and I guess one that doesn't have one correct answer. But what we heard from parents is they like to have choice in that depending on who your child is and what their mood is on a given day, you might choose a different way of visiting an experience in a museum. One good thing that all good cultural institutions should write down right now is the New York State Office for People with Developmental Disabilities has grants that they give for not-for-profit organizations in family support funded grants. I didn't know about it. This is definitely new to me, so I'm going to follow up on that. We talked about how based on some of our experiences working with school groups with children on the spectrum, we suggested creating - and heard from parents they would appreciate having - a sequential family program, kind of like you'd sign up for four or five times that happen maybe once a month or every weekend, I don't know, it's something to think about. That repetition breeds familiarity and a stronger sense of comfort in a new space and a new institution. That for families who choose to come on their own, it might be really nice for cultural institutions to create special brochures that they can pick up at the desk or something they can download on the website of a pre-curated experience and suggestions and tips, on which galleries you might want to consider because they have the least sensory distractions and quiet spaces and works of art that might work for you and other resources. We talked about social stories. I'm not going to go over that. There was one suggestion here that I think the public library has experimented recently with individual intake form interviews for people that are going to begin to come regularly to the library. We thought that that was a really nice way to customize an experience for a specific individual and their needs, specifically teens, but we talked about how in cultural institutions, doing the individual intake just isn't reasonable because we don't have the staffing for that but it could work in some cases. I think it was…Peggy, is that your name? Peggy suggested creating, for institutions that have on-your-own for parents with children on the spectrum, to actually have a parent orientation about your institution and what it offers and what are some tips and suggestions on how to bring your child to that museum to empower the parents before they come with their children.  And I think it's MoMA that just started a Facebook group for their families and that's a wonderful place to reinforce vocabularly and some of the images they just saw so that the kids and the parents can go back and continue the community of learning on Facebook. One other thing is to make sure that we educate not just education staff but visitor services staff in general in the institution that ties into the sense of welcome and appropriate response to sometimes challenging experiences that might happen in public spaces. So, that's it! Thank you!

Cindy: Thank you, group number two! And now, group number one! Who would like to report?

Audience member: I'm Rachel Rappaport. I'm from the Children's Museum of the Arts. I won't…I'll just talk about some of the things that you haven't already shared because we talked about a lot of the same things. We spent a lot of time talking about multi-sensory activities and interactive activities, incorporating for different learning styles, so sound, visual–putting the day's agenda on a schedule so people can see it and reiterate it, and not just speaking it but really driving it home. One thing that stuck with me was also emailing out that schedule to parents or sharing that on the website beforehand so parents can prepare the child before coming to the museum.

We spoke a little bit about things that you wouldn't otherwise think about in terms of our programs, like family restrooms and the importance of that, diet and children's needs in terms of what's in the snack bar in the cafeteria, certain special diet foods to have available. Even just in a program, taking a time-out for a snack is really important for kids. We were fortunate to have parents who had two different experiences. One of our parents went more to public programs and general hours at museums and her experiences during open hours. The other parent shared more about programs and going to MoMA's CreateAbility and programs at The MET. It was a nice balance between the two different approaches. What was interesting was that, each way works better for different families. So as we're thinking about programs, really not just looking at programs, but also looking at how we make our general hours more accessible. We talked a little bit about getting the word out in the schools and then also we spoke a lot about dividing into small groups and that while it's great to all come together, that really dividing into small groups with a teaching artist or a facilitator in each group and allowing that teacher to really have a more personal connection with the kids and learning what their one special thing that may draw them out a little bit more. And then we talked a little bit about how to divide into small groups and having some transition time. That parents don't all…Everyone may not show up at 9:30, some might come at 10, so how do you use that time to transition and then to divide up into groups from there.

We spoke a lot about big spaces. Some children may feel overwhelmed by the big space but others really enjoy that space. How do you use different spaces in different museums? I think a lot of that goes back to individualizing the programs and really allowing the teacher to find those times to pull certain children in and understand what their needs are. Which led us to speak about how you get parents to share that information about their children. One great suggestion was that when parents come in, to get a note card and have the parents write down a few notes about their child and hand it to the teacher so that the teacher can quickly have reference to what the needs of each child is without getting too personal or putting the parent on the spot in any way. I think that was it.


Cindy: Ok, thank you! I'm curious if any of the groups talked about.. There are a lot of museums that create programs or adapt their spaces or have earlier opening hours or quieter times. They put a lot of work into that side of things but they don't necessarily always have success in reaching families and reaching visitors or family members who have autism. Did any of the groups discuss marketing to a degree? That was discussed over here. Would you mind sharing a few things that came out of that part of the conversation?

Audience: Ok! Hi, my name is Cliff Davis. I'm the father of a seven year-old son with autism and I work with New York City Children's Services in their Developmental Disabilities Unit in the Office of Child and Family Health. One of things we were talking about and one of the things that's my job is to help link youngsters who are in the community with the proper supports and services. And each borough has their own Developmental Disabilities Council, which is a place where families go and private non-profit organizations, service providers go, and the government actually that oversees special needs funded programs. So it's a real great opportunity to do outreach for those programs, you're running those special programs. These are families who really want to have their children to participate greater and to be greater included in programs and services. So, I can certainly send anybody the list of the different Developmental Disabilities Councils. They each have their own website, they each have their own resource guide, meeting calendars, etc. And if museum folks want to go down and outreach for their programs and present on their programs, they would immediately be linked with folks with developmental disabilities who would want to participate. It's an untapped bunch of people who are just looking for ways to be included.

Cindy: Thank you so much! Oh.

Audience member (Peggy): I had the idea of creating a central database where museums could just register their programs, like maybe the museum access consortium could have that family website. My other idea was that maybe the NAA could have representatives come speak to parents about the programs that are out there. Not just their own programs, but visiting museums, connecting to museums, that could be very helpful in reaching out to parents.

Cindy: So I'd like to dedicate a little bit of time…We're very excited to work with the National Autism Association NY Metro Chapter and connect with more organizations in order to get the word out. That's a pretty obvious and it's sort of the beginning of a partnership and so we're pretty excited about that. But what I'd like to do at this point is give parents a little bit of time to share. Now that you've spent an hour with the people at your table, your impressions from the experience and what you're taking away from this experience as you think about going home and think about future experiences that you might have with your child around the city? Maybe if you can take a couple of minutes to provide your own feedback and thoughts after having this experience today. So, maybe we'll start at table number one. Susan, would you like to share?

Susan: I just want to say thank you. I started crying as I thanked the people at this table initially. We so appreciate all you do for our kids. We are regular attendees, my daughter and I, are regular attendees at the MoMA program and the MET program. You can tell there's a lot of care and thought and love put into those programs. And a lot of the things we had on our list are things that these programs are already doing. The individualized attention, picking up on my daughter's interest in Charlie Brown and incorporating that through music and through drawing in the program yesterday. We're very, very thankful in helping our children become the best they can be. Thank you for listening to us today.

Cindy: Are there other parents that would like to share?

Mary Johnson: My name is Mary Johnson. Our son Andrew is 22. I guess it's just been an amazing journey for us because when he was little, he was non-verbal, non-compliant, non-cooperative, and a handful. And we did a lot of unusual therapies with him. He finally learned how to read at the age of nine. And he had vision therapy at age 17 and he stopped skipping words [inaudible]. At age 21, he got a high school regents diploma with a presidential award for academic excellence and he is now a freshman at Landmark College in Vermont, which is a school exclusively for kids with learning disabilities. On every table, there is a little card that we printed up. My son made a 13-minute autobiographical documentary on what it is like to live with autism which we think is amazing and we hope you will enjoy it. Also on this card is our emails in case you are curious, you want to know some of the therapies we used to help our child learn how to read, or if you have an interest in Landmark College, we'd love to be a resource.

Cindy: Thank you so much. Mary and Paul Johnson came to us today through Barbara. Barbara Johnson from Cathedral of St. John the Divine.

Audience member: I'm Beth Latimer. My son is 14. I just have to say I'm dazzled incredibly, hopeful, and optimistic that all of these hearts and minds have come together on this issue and that there's not one simple answer. It's quite clear that the variety and complexity of solutions you are all coming up with together as a group are right on target. And I'm really excited for things to move forward here and I'm just so grateful for all of you who are here. It's really quite dazzling. Almost speechless but not really. [laughter] Just really grateful and thankful and excited and hopeful about what can be accomplished.

Cindy: Any other parents who would like to say a few words based on the conversation today.

Audience member: This is my first time to this group and I find it to be amazing. I've taken my son to museums with varying degrees of success so-to-speak. Will he behave? Will he be understood? Will he be escorted out? We've had those things and we've had varying experiences of welcome. And the idea that a whole group of people are getting together just with the idea of making sure that folks feel included and welcome and coming up with creative ideas to make sure they have a better experience is something that I never thought was happening in a room in the city and it's really encouraging. Hats off to all of you. This is a really great thing that you're doing for our families.

Cindy: Thank you. Are there any other parents that would like to share? Alright, Peggy?

Peggy: I think based on this discussion here and what I've heard from everybody. I'm way more likely as a parent to dig into all kinds of cultural institutions' websites and things and look for opportunities to bring my child to them, way more likely than I was beforehand. I really appreciate it.

Cindy: That's very encouraging. Thank you for those kind words. Yes, Paul?

Paul: Paul Johnson, married to Mary, father of Barbara [laughter]. This didn't come up particularly with our discussion but one of the things that is true of Andrew's experience was that he was able to be a docent at the Prospect Park Zoo at age 14, 15 as a summer job. He excelled at this job even though it required social skills and things that were not his strong suit, but he took to the job and learned all of the facts. That is his strong suit. So, just encouragement to be open to having kids on the autistic spectrum to be in programs that might not be designed for them. The other thing I'm thinking of is the Museum of the Moving Image was a key for him entering a museum experience where it was his subject and it was interactive and boy, did that accelerate a lot of things for him. So, just encouragement in that direction.

Cindy: Thank you. Ok, Beth?

Beth: I'm Beth Rosenberg. I just want to say following up on Paul and I've had the pleasure of working with Andrew and he's amazing, just amazing. All of these little kids become big kids and we need to get them jobs. I am really scared for my kid, and maybe other parents here feel scared as well, but I don't know what my kid is going to do. I don't even know if my kid is going to go to college or make it through community school. So, I want to plead with everyone here to please open up your museum or cultural institution to internships for these kids. It is the best way for these kids to learn. Yes, it takes more time. They need more hand-holding. They need more job-coaching. If everyone sitting at this amazing table could say, “I'm going to commit to taking one or two kids under my wing for the next year for a summer internship, a weekend internship, we're going to see a lot more hopefully progress in the world of autism.” The congressional hearings that were just on. Some of the senators talked about the tsunami–they called it the tsunami–of 18 year olds that are graduating, that are leaving the school system. What are we going to do with these kids? Are they going to sit and watch TV? We've got to give them job skills and we've got to give them experience and museums are very nurturing, lovely places to learn this. Whether it be filing in the museum bookstore, helping a group of kids going around. A lot of these kids are great with younger kids. So I just want to plead that you open your yard to these kids. We can place tons of kids in your institutions if you would let us.


Cindy: Thank you so much, Beth. That's such an important point. We heard that from the speakers that we had last month. There was a woman who works at Kykuit and it has been life-changing for her. And she shared why that's the case, the ability to go deep into a topic and the development of social skills. So, that's something that I think is really important for all of the institutions and I think we here in the room all agree on that. Is there anyone else that would like to share something? Any reactions? Anything you'd like to share more broadly with the room? Miranda..

Miranda: I'm Miranda. I'm from the Intrepid. I think that one of the really great things, especially about the people in the room, but many museums that aren't represented here is that it's a really welcoming community of museum educators, too. So if you ever want to observe a program at a museum, I'm sure that the coordinators would be more than welcome to have you. If you ever want to advertise your programs, I know we put out flyers for lots of museums at ours. There's a lot of resources in the room for that as well.

Cindy: Thank you, Miranda. That sort of leads into how we're going to take the many conversations that we've had here today and put it back out to you. We're actually going to listen to the recordings, document some of the stories that helped illustrate why the best practices, like a social story or visual schedule, are so important based on some of the examples that you provided in your groups. Yeah, Jackie?

Jackie: Jackie is asking for a list of email addresses. So, I think what we'll do is that we'll follow up with a survey. As part of that survey, there will be a couple of questions to get feedback so that when we do these types of workshops in the future, we continue to improve upon them, but we'll also ask if you're willing for us to share your email address and whoever includes their email address, we'll be sure to distribute that along with the institution, if you're representing an institution, or if you're a parent. So I think that's probably the best way we can do that. I think that's a great idea. So we're going to post the audio clips from today's workshop, as well as blog posts and a pdf file on our website that highlights some of the stories, as well as the ideas and best practices, questions, reflections, and hopefully we continue to grow and build knowledge and understanding. What's interesting about that is today we have about 50 people in the room. But whenever we post this information on websites, we get emails from all over the world and all over the United States, from people in rural towns don't have the good fortune that we have to connect with one another at a table with other professionals and individuals who are connected with and affected by autism. We really appreciate everyone being here today. There's one final thing. Museum Access Consortium is planning its first public event, meaning that this summer we're in the process of putting together an event, where museums and zoos and the botanical gardens, representatives from those institutions will be invited to set up tables and we're going to invite the public in to learn about what's available, whether it's a program or you have adapted your environment. Those are the kinds of things you'll be able to share person-to-person. At the end of the day, a lot of times it's the relationships that you establish that are the strongest entry point. This is all in-process, but we are still working on a venue and a date. If you're on our email list, that's great because we will be making announcements there both for museums to apply to participate and that will be happening within the next month or so. And then also making an announcement there and on our blog and on Facebook about the actual date and we'll make that months in advance. That's about it. I don't know if there's anything else that I'm missing.. Oh, the National Autism Association. Would you like to share a few things about how people can be engaged with the National Autism Association?

Kim: What I wanted to do was encourage all of the museum professionals here and other cultural institutions who have such wonderful programs and information to share to do things like use our Facebook page to share with the community. We actually have a really active Facebook page not only of parents in New York City but we have people who have friended us from all over the country. And a lot of times we'll even hear from friends who are coming to New York to visit looking for things that are friendly and welcoming for them to do with their kids on the autism spectrum. So I think that parents would really appreciate that. We can either post it for you or if you just want to go on and post it, feel free. I know some of you already do and we really appreciate it. We so appreciate all of the programming you're doing and we want to do what we can to help you get the word out too so that more families know about wonderful things that they can take advantage of in New York. So thank you.

Cindy: I'd just like to thank a few people for making this possible today in closing. First of all, I'd like to thank all of the parents. I think you all deserve a round of applause [applause]. Especially Kim and Peggy, they recruited most of the parents that are sitting at the tables today and were very thoughtful about the diverse range of experiences that these families have had so that we could match them up with all of the various institutions that we have here today. So there was a lot of work and creative thinking that went into that on their part and we really, really sincerely appreciate it. I'd also like to thank our facilitators: Miranda, Barbara, Danielle, Meredith, Lori Stratton for stepping up and volunteering to facilitate…Meredith, did I get to you?

Meredith: Yes.

Cindy: good! For volutneering and stepping up to facilitate these conversations today. So let's give the facilitators a round of applause [applause]. There are also a couple of museums I'd like to thank. The Museum at Eldridge Street loaned us three of their audio recorders and The Metropolitan Museum of Art also did so that we could record the individual conversations. So I'd also like to thank you for that and also The Metropolitan Museum of Art for opening their space to us so that so that we could be here in the first place and recording the session. We just really, really appreciate it. And, of course, thank you, Shirlee Taylor, from the FAR Fund. So, we're very excited about the things that are to come in the next year and when we collect feedback in the survey, we ask that you give your ideas of what other kinds of workshops you'd like to see. Parents, you're welcome to come to these workshops whenever you'd like. We'd love to have you here. This is all about bringing together people both museums and also people who have experience with disability or family members who do. And finally, the New York Metro Chapter of the National Autism Association. Have a great day everybody!

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