The Children’s Museum staff and volunteers have a longstanding goal of providing accessibility tools for children so that EVERYONE can play and learn in their own way. Thanks to an anonymous donor, we have added tools to help children who get overstimulated while playing in the Museum.
At the entrance to the museum now sits a little row boat full of tools to reduce sensory overload and aid in deescalation. These items are free for use in the museum to anyone who needs them. So what’s in the boat?
- Weighted Vests. These neoprene vests contain small removable weighted pouches. For kids who are easily stimulated, the snugness of the vest and the weight can be calming. Vests come in sizes X-Small through Large. Weighted vests work on the same principle as a weighted blanket, but are much better for playing in the museum and are easier to clean between uses.
- Earmuffs. These kid-friendly earmuffs reduce the noise found in a busy children’s museum. The sounds of laughing, playing, exhibits buzzing, the phone ringing – these can all be overwhelming to anyone. For someone who is sensitive to sounds or on the autism spectrum, reducing the noise level can make the difference between a fun and educational experience – and a sensory nightmare. This brand, Snug, was recommended to me at our Festival of Trains event by a parent with a child who suffers from autism.
- Sensory Backpacks. These clear backpacks come with several tools for deescalation.
- Sunglasses – whether the lights are overwhelming or you just want to be anonymous for a while, our kid-sized shades can help calm the situation.
- Manipulatives – keep hands busy with stimulating sensory manipulatives. Fidget tools help distract the senses so you can work on calming the emotions.
- Liquid Motion Bubblers – colorful oil moving slowly is calming and can help deescalate through distraction. These are tools I have used in schools with kids who’s emotions can spiral out of control. Watching the bubbles move and flipping the bubbler over works wonders to calm the situation.
- My Moods, My Choices Flipbook – this fun flip-book helps kids identify how their feeling and what they can do about it. Colorful characters and friendly fonts help kids figure out what they’re feeling and communicate it to those around them. This spiral bound book can be a useful tool in deescalating the situation, or simply working on identifying feelings anytime.
- Breathing Exercise Cards – It’s hard to overstate the importance of breathing to our moods. Neurodiverse and neurotypical, children and adults – everyone can benefit from being conscious of our breathing and learning how to use breath to change our state of mind. Learning breathing exercises ahead of time and practicing them while overstimulated can be a game-changer for kids who are autistic or simply overwhelmed. These cards show how to do mindful breathing and can help prompt a reduction in anxiety.
If you would like to see additional tools added to these kits, please let us know. We’re always interested in meeting the needs of our guests and we want to help lead the accessibility movement in our region. We can’t do that without listening to what help and what doesn’t.
GLCM is committed to breaking down barriers to education, whether they be cultural, economic, linguistic, neurological, or whatever form a barrier may take. Some of these barriers we’re aware of – like the need for more language access in the museum or automatic doors – but of course there are some barriers that are still invisible to us. Help us meet our goal of accessibility by engaging with us when you see barriers to learning in the community, and especially in the museum.