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  • 1.  Sensory Friendly Programming

    Posted 03-17-2021 01:45 PM

    I have developed sensory friendly programming for our organization last year before COVD and have been hesitant to offer it in case families just didn't feel comfortable yet attending them. It's essentially a sensory friendly and family friendly event before we open to the public with limited slots available (to control traffic). Has anyone encountered any issues providing similar type of programming? 

    Any advice would be appreciated.

    Many thanks,

    Andy Schlauch
    Chihuly Collection

    Andrew Schlauch
    Executive Director of the Chihuly Collection
    Morean Arts Center
    Saint Petersburg FL

  • 2.  RE: Sensory Friendly Programming

    Posted 03-18-2021 09:29 AM
    Thank you for considering this often underserved population! We have continued to offer sensory friendly events, while still enforcing the mask requirement. We are clear in our messaging that we understand that masks can be challenging for some with sensory sensitivities, and are very gentle and caring with our answers to the thankfully few complaints. For the most part, people have been very supportive and the numbers are beginning to grow again.

    Stephanie McMahon
    Education Specialist
    Space Center Houston
    Houston TX

  • 3.  RE: Sensory Friendly Programming

    Posted 03-18-2021 09:58 AM
    Hi Stephanie,

    Thank you so much for your reply. You addressed my main concern of people that may have sensory sensitivities towards masks and ensuring that everyone has a fun and safe time together. I am very glad to hear that you have been able to continue your program and see numbers increase despite everything going on. 

    This has been helpful to read.


    Andrew Schlauch
    Executive Director of the Chihuly Collection
    Morean Arts Center
    Saint Petersburg FL

  • 4.  RE: Sensory Friendly Programming

    Posted 03-19-2021 10:18 AM
    Hi Andy,

    At Brandywine River Museum of Art, we continued our sensory-friendly programming by first providing take-home kits and then by easing back into our before/after hours programming. The kits had some postcard reproductions along with some conversation starters/questions similar to what we would use in the gallery, as well as some simple items to explore (for example, a laminated pressed flower for observing details, or a pack of WikkiStix for making a line drawing on a piece of cardstock). When we hosted an event this winter we eliminated the sensory break area, but communicated that clearly beforehand, along with our commitment to requiring masks. We also provided inexpensive fidgets that visitors could keep rather than re-using them. The feedback we received was similar to what some others shared; most were appreciative that we offered the program and understood the changes.

    We just met with our advisory committee about planning for this year, and we may bring back the sensory break area but not provide the contents we typically would (tent, weighted blankets, etc), and instead communicate that families are welcome to bring their own sensory regulation items. We will continue to use tactile items at our gallery stations, but will only include objects that are easy to wipe down between visitors.

    From our audience it seems like the key is providing whatever resources we can, and then communicating about them very well so visitors know what to expect.

    Good luck!

    Laura Westmoreland

    Associate Educator

    Adult & Community Programs


    Pronouns: she/her/hers






    OF ART


    P.O. Box 141

    Chadds Ford, PA 19317



  • 5.  RE: Sensory Friendly Programming

    Posted 03-18-2021 09:59 AM
    We are still using some of our hands-on toys. We have several sets so they can rotate. We also have enough time between visitors to clean everything. People understand that's what we're doing and they are okay with it.​

    Karen Yaffe Lottes
    Program Coordinator
    Gaithersburg Community Museum

  • 6.  RE: Sensory Friendly Programming

    Posted 03-19-2021 08:51 AM
    Andrew we have continued our sensory friendly programming. We have reduced capacity slightly. Our general approach is to follow all of the appropriate safety guidelines and to give guests the opportunity to participate at a level they are most comfortable. While some are still not attending due to their circumstances, others desire the programming if it is done in an appropriate manner. We feel it is important to serve those guests.

    John Corcoran
    Director, Attraction Development
    Ripley Entertainment
    Orlando FL

  • 7.  RE: Sensory Friendly Programming

    Posted 03-22-2021 12:15 PM

       I am so glad to hear that some museums are still prioritizing programs for their visitors with disabilities. I have a paper in press about Sensory Sensitive Programming in Museums and will share when it is published!
       I would add that that you could also update your social story to include picture with people wearing masks or a section about masks, that way visitors can also prepare for it ahead of time with their family or caregivers in a calm setting. If you don't have a social story or need help creating one, let me know!

    -Rachel Schwartzman
    Museum Accessibility Consultant 

    Rachel Schwartzman
    Museum Accessibility Consultant
    Eugene OR