When I am looking at museums I want to visit with my family, it is not always as easy as finding where they are and what time they open. My eldest daughter has Aspergers, a form of autism, so she struggles with busy places, loud noises and unfamiliar environments. Museums are slowly helping to break down the barriers, helping families to visit in a supportive environment. Sometimes they put on special events just for autism families, or they put up visual stories so you can prepare before your visit. It can be hard to find this information, it is often buried in websites, events can be one-off, once a month or one a year. I thought I would start to put down some events I know of on this page to help families find out about the great work museums are doing.
This list does not cover all the events out there. I will try to keep it up to date but please don’t rely on the information, always check with the museum first. This is not an endorsement of any of the events, if I have been to one I will say and sometimes there may be a blog about the event. If anything is incorrect please let me know. If you want to add an event drop me an email and if you make it to one of the museums I would love to know how you get on.
TinctureOfMuseum@gmail.com or on Twitter @TinctureofMuse
Jewish Museum London – Curious Explorers
A relaxed morning during the school holiday for children with autism or other social communication conditions, their siblings, parents and carers. Free admission.
Enjoy early opening and a dedicated space at the museum from 9am.
- Benefit from reduced noise levels in the galleries
- Relax in our Chill Out Zone
Our next Curious Explorer mornings take place on:
- Wednesday 14 February 2018
- Wednesday 11 April 2018
For family visitors with Special Educational Needs (SEN), including Autistic Spectrum Disorder (ASD), we are opening early on two special days. Enjoy the Museum at a quieter time, free from the general public. Explore our All Aboard family spaces in peace, take part in our craft activities and make use of our new Sensory Bags to help you explore the collection. Many of the sounds in the Museum are switched off, making it a peaceful place to visit.
Dates Sat 7th April 2018
Price: Advanced booking is essential as places are limited. Please call 020 7565 7298 to book your place now. Children and young people under 18 go free; adults charged general admission rate.
For more information please check the website – https://www.ltmuseum.co.uk/whats-on/events-calendar/family-activities
Museum of London – Morning Explorers
The Museum of London open early for families who have children with Autism. The museum opens at 8.30am (normal opening hours 10-6pm) giving access before the general public. Free but booking is required to keep numbers low. Suitable for families with children under 13, some galleries open and activities include storytelling, self-directed trails through the galleries and an arts and craft session.
Next session – Sat 3rd March 2018, Museum of London, London Wall.
Natural History Museum – Dawnosaurs
The Natural History Museum will be running “Dawnosaurs” Early Mornings for families with members on the Autistic Spectrum. The next event is Sat 10th March 2018 booking opens 10th February 2018 http://www.nhm.ac.uk/events/dawnosaurs.html
Other dates – 20th May 2018
They have a short video on YouTube which shows the galleries, restaurants, cafe and shop.
My blog on the first Dawnosaurs can be read here – https://tinctureofmuseum.wordpress.com/2016/04/26/dawnosaurs-natural-history-museum-autism-early-opening-april-2016/
Run free creative workshops for children with special educational needs and their family and friends. Booking is essential and the event is suitable for all ages and abilities. Numbers are kept low, around 7 families with about 20 people in total. I have observed this event and staff are very supportive and welcoming. The session is not specifically for children with an Autistic Spectrum Condition, all children with special needs and their families are welcome. You can read my blog on the sessions here.
There is a contact list of people who are interested and those on the waiting list from previous sessions are contacted in advance of making bookings available to the wider pool of people, after that it is a first come first served basis. If you are interested it is well worth putting your name down. Each session has a different theme and is led by an artist who has experience of working with children and adults with special needs.
Capture the Flag
Sunday 11th March 2018 – 11am-1pm FULLY BOOKED
Treasure Hunters – Join us for a free creative workshop inspired by the treasures in ‘Charles I: King and Collector’, for children with special educational needs and their family and friends.
This workshop will be tailored to meet the access requirements of those attending and led by experienced artist educator Cash Aspeek.
Royal Air Force Museum – North London
They have two documents to download from their website a guide for visitors with autism and an autism friendly aircraft trail with a good map to follow. Entry is free. In July 2014 they were the first museum to be awarded the National Autistic Society Autism Access Award. They have a quiet space and train all staff and volunteers in autism awareness. I have met staff and they take a museum wide approach to welcoming autistic visitors, if you have any specific queries or needs please get in touch with them. You can read my blog on their Autism Access Award here
There is also ample parking on site. [The museum is currently being redeveloped and parking is restricted please check the website Feb 2017].
The Planetarium – Morning Stars – 4th November 2017, 10.00-10.30am. Planned in conjunction with the Royal Borough of Greenwich ASD Outreach Service and local parents from the Greenwich branch of the National Autistic Society. They have also received support from the Science Museum who run successful autism friendly events.
Tickets: Adult: £5, Child: £5, Age range: recommended for 7+ (all ages welcome, under-3s free) two spaces for wheelchair users
An early morning Sky Tonight show for children and young people who have an Autistic Spectrum Condition (ASC), and their families. Explore the night sky and find out from a Royal Observatory Astronomer what is visible on the day of your visit and during the month ahead; plus the chance to ask questions.
For more information or to book please visit the website: http://www.rmg.co.uk/see-do/exhibitions-events/morning-stars-1
Autism-Friendly Screenings – During Autism-Friendly Screenings, low lights are left on in the auditorium and the volume of the soundtrack is reduced. It is fine for visitors make noise or take a break during the film.
Science Museum – Early Bird events
The museum opens at 8.30 on a Saturday morning exclusively for families with members who have an Autistic Spectrum Condition (ASC). The rest of the museum opens at 10am but some galleries remain open just for Early Birds till 10.50am. Families are welcome to stay on afterwards. Free and suitable for families with children under 15.
Dates for 2018 are:
Saturday 24 February 2018
Sunday 18 March 2018
Saturday 5 May 2018
Saturday 14 July 2018
Saturday 29 September 2018
Saturday 10 November 2018
Bookings can be made by calling 020 7942 4000 If you would like to receive a reminder that bookings are about to open, please email: email@example.com and we’ll add you to our Early Birds mailing list.
I have been to this event many times and it is always well run and great fun. All the staff, including security, have had training and understand how autism impacts on visitors. There is a great mix of events, craft, activity, chill out zone, sensory room or you can just wander around the galleries. I have written a blog about our visit here.
Night Owls enables young adults who have Autism to come along and enjoy the Museum free from the hustle and bustle of the general public.
On selected Saturdays across the year we open the Museum exclusively to pre-booked Night Owls guests from 18.45 until 21.30. As well as the chance to explore the galleries, there are lots of fun workshops and exciting demonstrations to enjoy.
All of these events are completely free and suitable for young adults between the ages of 16–25.
I visited the first one on Saturday 28th November 2015. You can see a Storify on events here – https://storify.com/AutisminMuseums/night-owls-science-museum-16-25yr-olds-28-nov-2015
The next one is planned for Saturday 2nd December 2017, booking opens Friday 3rd November 2017.
For further details and new dates please see the website http://www.sciencemuseum.org.uk/visitmuseum/Plan_your_visit/events/other/Night_Owls
For Disabled Access Day Saturday 11th March 2017 St. Paul’s Cathedral have a whole day of events including for the first time an early relaxed opening for families with #autism from 8.30am for more details please see the website https://www.stpauls.co.uk/accessday2017
We visited this event as a family and had a really good time a blog on our visit is here – https://tinctureofmuseum.wordpress.com/2017/08/04/tower-bridge-autism-early-opening-july-2017/
Autism Friendly Early Opening mornings when Tower Bridge will be opening its doors early for children with autism and other needs, as well as their siblings, families and carers.
Families will be able to explore the Exhibition and Engine Rooms in a calm, relaxed atmosphere and also take part in a family craft activity if they wish. Also available will be our family trail, which visitors can complete at their own pace. Download our visual story to help prepare for your visit.
Autism Friendly Early Opening will take place on the following dates:
Tickets are no longer on sale but new sessions are being developed. If you would like to be notified as soon as future dates go on sale please sign up for our newsletter below.
For any questions about the event please contact firstname.lastname@example.org or 020 7940 8397.
No specific autism events but they do have a great visual guide for parents and carers with children and people on the autistic spectrum.
The museum runs special family events for children and their families involving art workshops and inclusive storytelling. There are none currently scheduled but check their autism page below. There is lots of support information on their website including a pre-visit visual booklet and a virtual tour of the museum. They have a quiet room and Sense backpacks which are available for free from the information desk and contain ear defenders as well as toys and maps.
Early Morning Explorers Christmas Fun – Saturday 16th December 2017
Join us for our Early Morning Explorers Sessions, an exclusive hour before opening where young children with autism and their families can enjoy the Castle in a specially tailored environment.
The team at Lincoln Castle have undergone Autism Awareness training and worked alongside Lincoln’s Parent Support Group PAACT who is affiliated to the Lincolnshire Autistic Society.
The Victorian Prison and Magna Carta experience will be adapted to create a more suitable environment for visitors with autism. Our Visit England Gold Accolade winning Front of House team will also be at hand to assist you throughout your visit.
If you require a moment away or a safe space, our education spaces will be available equipped with sensory toys.
The Langton’s Café team will be serving food and drink from 9am.
Should you require any more information, please read our accessibility statement. A brand new Easy Read Guide, which is specifically designed for young children and adults with Autism to take on their way around the Castle, can be downloaded and you can find out how to reserve your own temporary ear defenders whilst visiting us.
Please note that these changes to the Castle and its attractions will take place between 9.00am and 10.00am. From 10am the Castle’s audio and visual interpretation will restart. You are more than welcome to stay beyond 10am.
East of England
Sunday 19th November 2017 10.30-12.30
Free admission but booking required call 01245 605 700
Chelmsford Museum have added a number of autism resources to their website including FAQs and a visual guide. https://www.chelmsford.gov.uk/leisure-theatres-and-museums/museums/chelmsford-museum/your-visit-to-chelmsford-museum/accessibility-at-chelmsford-museum/resources-for-visitors-with-learning-disabilities-or-an-autistic-spectrum-condition/
Chelmsford Museum have been awarded a National Autism Friendly Award from the National Autistic Society (May 2017)
For more info telephone 01245 605700 and ask for Amanda or Yvonne.
Great North Museum – Newcastle Upon Tyne
We will be opening for an early private museum viewing for people who have an Autistic Spectrum Condition (ASC), along with their families and carers, before the general public have access to the museum. Next date is Thursday 3rd August 2017 9-10am. Free but booking is essential book tickets here
You can download a Visual Story for the museum here which may help prepare those with ASC for their visit.
Autism friendly sessions second Saturday of every month. See, Make and Do. Drop in, free.Saturday 9th December 2017, early opening for children who have autism and other needs and their families, 9.15-10.30am. Second Saturday of every month. Drop-in, free. Autism Friendly: for children and young people aged 5-16 with a parent or carer and siblings welcome.
In December our Fossils Gallery, where Stan the T-Rex lives will be open earlier.
At this month’s early open there will also be a short ‘pop-up’ performance by Manchester University’s Music Society. The quintet of musicians will play some fun, nature-themed music in a relaxed setting.
For more information contact Victoria Grant on 0161 306 1770 email@example.com or see the website.
Pityard Skating Rink
Autism Friendly: Autism Friendly Skating Sessions available on Sunday 24th & 31st December and Sunday 7th January 10am – 10.30am. Advance booking essential to allow us to manage the number of skaters during these sessions (please ring 01670 624455 to book a session, 10am-4pm, Mon-Sun).
Liverpool Museums – Liverpool – various venues
International Slavery Museum – Autism Friendly Morning
5th November 2017 10am-12 noon Free, drop-in
Visit the International Slavery Museum for an autism-friendly quiet morning.
The museum will be open as usual to the public, but this is a quieter morning and the volume of interactives in the galleries will be reduced during this time.
Please see our autism-friendly gallery guide to the International Slavery Museum and Merseyside Maritime Museum (pdf) which has photos of spaces outside and inside the museum along with useful information.
Lady Lever Art Gallery – Autism Friendly Morning
10 December 2017 10am
Join the education team at the Lady Lever Art Gallery for a quiet morning with a festive theme.
In this autism-friendly session for visitors of all ages you’ll have the opportunity to make Christmas cards and explore sensory boxes.
These activities will take place in our activity rooms.
Merseyside Maritime Museum – Autism Friendly Morning
5th November 2017 10am-12 noon Free, drop-in
Visit the Merseyside Maritime Museum, including the ‘Seized! The Border and Customs uncovered’ gallery, for an autism-friendly quiet morning.
The museum will be open as usual to the public, but this is a quieter morning and the volume of interactives in the galleries will be reduced during this time.
Please see our autism-friendly gallery guide to Merseyside Maritime Museum (pdf) which has photos of spaces outside and inside the museum along with useful information.
Walker Art Gallery– Autism Friendly Morning –
Sunday 15th October 10am-12 noon
Sunday 19th November 10am-12 noon
Sunday 11th December 10am-12 noon
Free – drop-in
Between 10.30-11.30am you can join us for fun interactive exploration of the Big Art for Little Artists gallery and a choice of craft activities will be available. This is also a chance to meet other parents for a cuppa and a chat.
What you can expect
- Quiet morning sessions before crowds arrive
- Choice of art and craft activities
- Autism friendly signage to help navigate the space
- Refreshments for participants and their families in a seperate quiet space (11.30am-12pm)
World Museum – Autism Friendly Morning
Sunday 1st October 2017 10am-12 noon
See our autism-friendly guide to World Museum (pdf) which has photos of spaces inside and outside the Museum, along with useful information.
Tate – Liverpool
Tate Liverpool are offering an autism event in October. The Tate have been working in conjunction with Liverpool Autistic Children’s Alliance.
Complete with a quiet break-out space, this session is for children with autism, other social communication issues, their siblings, parents and carers.
Explore the work of Roy Lichtenstein through colour and pattern in a playful environment. Complete with a quiet break-out space, this artist-led session is for children with autism and other social communication issues, their siblings, parents and carers.
An accessible guide to the gallery is available from the front desk and is also available to download.
23rd October 2017 11am-12.30pm
23rd October 2017 1.30pm-3.00pm
For more info please see the website http://www.tate.org.uk/whats-on/tate-liverpool/workshop/creative-studio-1
Great blog here on the event – http://www.autismtogether.co.uk/autism-friendly-and-bacon-at-the-tate/
Haslemere Educational Museum – Surrey
New #autism friendly events have started at this museum. Booking essential.
Next event Wednesday 25th October 2017 9am-10am Special opening for families with children who have an Autism Spectrum Condition to come along and enjoy the Museum free from the hustle and bustle of the general public. The galleries will be open and there will be an opportunity to handle special objects
Kids In Museums Family Friendly Museum of the Year 2012 winner. Contact Kay Topping the Education Officer and she can send you pictures of the museum to prepare for your visit. firstname.lastname@example.org Telephone 01428 642 112
Future dates – Friday 27th October 2017 10.30-12 noon
Registration Required Visit our museum before the usual general public opening times.
Explore the museum and take part in drop-in activities. Especially suitable for visitors with autism or other special needs, and their siblings, parents and carers.
Enjoy Augmented Reality trails, family trails with hands-on activities, programming and a chill-out zone. All drop-in sessions, so stay for as long as you wish.
The National Museum of Computing has secured funding from Museum + Heritage to support the relaxed openings. This has allowed us to not only upgrade the chill out zone, offer new activities and but also to provide ear defenders. The funding has also allowed us to offer this session on 27 October FREE of charge However, please still remember to register.
After 12 noon, stay for the afternoon to enjoy more hands-on activities for families as part of our Bytes Festivals.
Museums + Heritage will be filming the event. If you would like to not be featured, please just let us know on the day.
Please visit our accessibility pages to view our visual story and sensory map, which can help people to prepare for their visit.
IMPORTANT NOTE – PLEASE REGISTER BY EMAILING **Claire Marston, Head of Learning. **
Registration is required to try to ensure that the event works to everyone’s benefit – if you have any questions, you can also email Claire.
The Oxford University Museum of Natural History now have a page on their website with information to support autistic visitors which can be found here. It includes a detailed visual guide which shows the galleries, displays, lifts and toilets etc. The guide is a new initiative for them (Jan 2015) and would really appreciate any feedback that visitors can give, you can contact them on this email – email@example.com
The Story Museum – Oxford
The Story Museum have ‘relaxed visits’ for their new exhibitions. Next one is Sunday 5th November 2017 4-5pm. The visits are for those with autism, learning disabilities or sensory and communication difficulties. Sessions are Free and last an hour, ring to book a place on 01865 7900 050 or email firstname.lastname@example.org Visual story is on the website.
Lots of Birmingham Museums are opening up early for Morning Explorers autism visits –
Our museums are opening their doors early for families with children on the autistic spectrum.
Children and families will be able to explore in a quiet and welcoming environment, before the museum opens to the public.
Admission is half price, plus one free carer place, at Thinktank, Blakesley Hall and Soho House. Admission is free at Birmingham Museum & Art Gallery.
All places must be prebooked on 0121 348 8263.
Morning Explorers dates are:
- Soho House – Sat 5th August 2017, 9-11am
- Thinktank – Sat 21st October 2017, 9-11am
- Birmingham Museum & Art Gallery – Sat 2nd December 2017, 9-10am
For more information, please contact Rosie Barker, Community Engagement Team Leader on Rosie.Barker@BirminghamMuseums.org.uk
Our relaxed experience is a factory tour which has been designed specifically for people on the Autistic Spectrum and their families, and suitable also for people with a learning disability or sensory and communication disorder.
Our 2017 Relaxed tours run once a month on the following Sundays: 5th November, 3rd December.
The tour starts at 3.15pm. Please arrive 5 minutes early for your tour to pay and ‘clock in’. The tour lasts approximately 1 hour and 15 minutes.
It is essential that you pre-book your visit by contacting our front of house team on 0121 2334790 or by email: email@example.com
How have we adapted our usual factory tour?
We have adapted the environment by reducing noise levels and making some of our machinery demonstrations optional rather than standard. Group sizes are also smaller and we provide a quiet room (which includes a lava lamp, gentle lighting and cushions) for those who need some space during the tour. Our tour guide and front of house volunteers are trained in, or have experience of the Autistic Spectrum.
There will also be a special trail with Fred the factory cat for younger audiences, and we have put together some PECS (Picture Exchange Communication Systems) to help us communicate with everyone on the tour.
We’ve timed our Relaxed experience to be the last tour of the day so we can be more flexible with time to suit the needs of the group.
Most importantly, there will be a relaxed atmosphere where you can learn and enjoy discovering our wonderful ‘time capsule’ factory together as a family or with friends. All areas of the museum are wheelchair accessible.
Our Relaxed experience has been developed with one of our museum volunteers who is on the Autistic spectrum.
For full details, including pre-visit information films and downloads, please visit our Relaxed at Newman Bros. pages http://www.coffinworks.org/newmanbros/visit/relaxed/
The Herbert – Art Gallery and Museum – Coventry
Early Bird: Sensory Play Days -20th October, 17th November, 15th December, 19th January
9.15am – 10.00am
First session free!
£2 per child, per session.
Let imaginations soar as your child learns to play creatively in this interactive space. Explore and grow using inspiring sensory materials, the possibilities are endless.
SEN sessions are bookable and limited to 12 participants per session (plus parent/carer/companion) and are open to any age. SEN sessions are aimed at those who have additional needs who would benefit from a calm and sensory stimulating environment
Each month the space will focus on a different theme, so you’ll always have a new adventure!
For futher information, please download the information pack.
To book, email: firstname.lastname@example.org or call 02476237542.
Places are limited to a first come, first served basis.
Market Hall Museum – Warwickshire
Monday 21st August 2017 2-4pm
Autism Friendly Family Activity at Market Hall Museum
Dress up as a Georgian aristocrat, have a chat to one of our collections team about the costume in our galleries and have a go at making your own Georgian accessories. Cost: £2.50, payable on the day. Spaces are limited so please book a space for every child you are bringing with you. Children must be accompanied by an adult.
Yorkshire and Lincolnshire
Eureka! The National Children’s Museum – Halifax, West Yorkshire
They offer an Extra Pair of Hands service for disabled children to guide and support your visit. Only available in term time and must be booked 2 weeks in advance. You can try this service for free once. They also run regular Saturday and holiday clubs, check events page for details. General admission costs to the museum and annual pass information can be found here. For more details ring 01422 330 069.
The also have a visual story to help you prepare for your visit.
Autism friendly early opening – Saturday 7th October 2017 8.30-10am when doors open to general public. Free but please book your place – https://www.scienceandmediamuseum.org.uk/whats-on/early-birds
Early Birds is a great way to explore the museum at a quiet time, away from the hustle and bustle of crowds.
This time, you’ll have a chance to see Soyuz TMA-19M: Tim Peake’s Spacecraft. This extraordinary spacecraft brought astronaut Tim Peake back home after his mission to the International Space Station in 2016. It’s spent six months orbiting Earth, travelled faster than the speed of sound, and survived temperatures of more than 1500ºC—can you see the burn marks on the surface?
Our Explainers will be on hand with fun space-themed games and activities. You can also enjoy our Supersenses exhibition and our newest gallery, Wonderlab—both are full of amazing sights and sounds. There will be a sensory play area in the Wonderlab Studio.
Our other galleries, including the BFI Mediatheque, will be open for families to explore and play with interactive exhibits.
Our Access Guide can help you prepare for your visit.
The museum staff working on the day have received training from Specialist Autism Services.
York Castle Museum are holding their second relaxed opening Sunday 24th September 2017. From 9.30-11.30am. We know that our museum can be loud and busy at times, so we will put our lights on full and turn off all the sound effects so it’s a less overwhelming environment for our visitors. You’ll still be able to visit all the galleries, but there will be no dark areas and no sudden sounds. We have worked with the National Autistic Society North Yorkshire Central branch on this event. No need to book for ticket prices please see the website.
There is seating provided around the museum, and a quiet space will be available should you need it.
Our Relaxed Openings are designed for visitors who would prefer a quieter visit to our museum.
We have visual stories available for visitors with autism and their carers – these can be found on our Access page here.
The event is free for visitors with autism, dementia, visual impairments or similar issues. Carers and children under 16 will also be admitted for free. Accompanying members of a group will be admitted for £5, and standard admission is £10. There is no need to book ahead.
If you require any further information about this event, please email email@example.com or phone 01904 687687.
Whole page of support including sensory backpacks, communication cards and visual story https://www.nms.ac.uk/national-museum-of-scotland/plan-your-visit/events-and-resources-for-autistic-people/
Early Doors for Autism – Silver Shimmer
Exclusive access for autistic children to our Scotland’s Early Silver exhibition plus Christmas Crafts.
16th December 2017 9-10am places are limited so please book, free
Updated 4th December 2017