Hancock:ASD friendly early opening

We had a great visit to The Great North Hancock Museum in Newcastle this morning. They opened an hour early today just for kids with autism – how good is that?! 

We don’t often go to asd friendly events as often they don’t interest Toby – for example lots of cinemas do asd screening however Toby is unable to sit still and has no interest in anything new and different. If I’m honest the reason we went this morning was for Ted. We’ve been chatting a lot recently about how we build in activities and visits that suit Teddy rather then everything revolving around Toby and his needs all of the time. Ted would love a visit to Shildon to see the trains or to Beamish to ride on the trams however Toby isn’t a huge fan of these places (I think mainly because they are busy and noisy) We do want to build some flexibility in to Toby as in life he will have to learn to deal with things that he doesn’t like however his behaviour can he challenging when he becomes stressed or overwhelmed. We plan on having some time with Ted alone when Toby’s respite gets sorted (we’re just waiting for direct payments to ring me back but that’s another story!) However an asd friendly visit to somewhere Teddy would enjoy sounded like a good compromise as the environment would be chilled for Toby and even if he just sat in his pushchair the whole time, Ted could enjoy visiting somewhere without Toby getting too stressed.

We booked a while ago (it was free) and yesterday we received an email with a link to a 17 (yes 17) paged social story about today’s event. Social stories help some children who struggle with new things to prepare this is so that things feel more familiar when they happen as they know what to expect.   I’m not sure how long the link will work but you can take a look online –Hancock social story. The info, photos and wording was great – well done Hancock!

We parked outside of Newcastle and got the metro in – mainly for Teddy’s benefit as he’s very much in to ‘choo choo’s’ at the moment. Toby found the metro challenging and wore his ear defenders and chewed his cuddly Peso the whole time however it was just a short journey.

We arrived at the museum and were greated by some very helpful and friendly staff. The atmosphere in the museum was fab – no loud noises or music, no bright lights and very few people (I’m sure there were less than ten families in the whole museum!) perfect for children who struggle in busy, over stimulating environments! However…we brought Ted…who ran around shouting and making lots of animal sounds…he loved it however I’m not sure the autistic children appreciated it! Ted is slightly deaf and he only has one volume…loud.

Toby sat in his pushchair however he soon became a bit agitated and so we put some music on his wireless headphones and that chilled him out. Ted loved exploring and finding all of the animals. Lions, monkeys, rabbits, sheep, fish and dinosaurs which are all favourites at the moment. It was lovely to see him enjoying himself and Toby just sitting calmly in the pushchair as it doesn’t happen very often!

 Ted signing Giraffe.
We then went in to the Spineless exhibition which has been in for the summer (this finishes in Nov so if you haven’t been I would highly recommend!) Toby decided that this looked interesting and so came out of the pushchair. There was a gazebo covered in camouflage netting which made a good den and then a room with giant mini beasts to climb on, slides and a little trampoline too! The boys loved exploring and it was lovely to have the whole place pretty much to ourselves. As the session went on more children came it and it was nice to not have to worry about Toby not understanding that he had to wait his turn for the slide – I got a few understanding smiles and nods from other parents!

The boys also enjoyed exploring the Mouse House which again was really chilled – when we have visited in the past this area has been very popular and too busy for Toby.

Massive thank you to all the staff for coming in early and making this morning so enjoyable for everyone – we’re hoping there will be another event very soon!!


2 thoughts on “Hancock:ASD friendly early opening

  1. Hi there – the museum sent me the link to your lovely blog post. I’m doing some research about how museums can become more autism friendly, and just wanted to check it would be ok to share this with other museums and also / especially if it’s ok to use your images? They will be completely in context with links back to your post and with information provided by the museum. There’s so much good info here that other museums need to know too! huge best wishes

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