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 Morning
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:
- Tuesday 8 August 2017
- Wednesday 25 October 2017
- Wednesday 14 February 2018
- Wednesday 11 April 2018
London Transport Museum – SEN mornings at the museum
The London Transport Museum opens early for a limited number of visitors with an autistic spectrum condition (ASC) twice a year. You can enjoy the Museum at a quieter time, free from the general public and take part in interactive workshops and demonstrations. Opening early from 9am. Advance booking is essential, please call 020 7565 7298 to book your place now.
Dates Sat 8th April 2017.
Price: Charged at standard Museum entry rate. Children free, adults pay but ticket lasts for 12 months.
For more information please check the website – http://www.ltmuseum.co.uk/learning/schools/special-educational-needs
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.
Sat 1st July 2017 – Next session – Morning explorers is free and provides an informal atmosphere in which to explore the museum, sensitive to the needs of children with autistic spectrum conditions under the age of 13.
The Natural History Museum will be running “Dawnosaurs” Early Mornings for families with members on the Autistic Spectrum. The next event is 6th May 2017 8-10am, booking opens 8th April http://www.nhm.ac.uk/events/dawnosaurs.html
Later dates 15th July 2017, 16th September 2017, 18th November 2017.
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.
Globe-trotting textiles – family workshop for children with special educational needs
Sunday 27th August 2017 – 11-1pm
Join us for a free creative workshop inspired by ‘Matisse in the Studio’, for children with special educational needs and their family and friends
Booking now, free – see website for details https://www.royalacademy.org.uk/event/globe-trotting-textiles
To find out more email firstname.lastname@example.org or call 0207 300 5995.
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].
Car Park fees are:
0-3 Hours – £3.00 per vehicle
3-6 Hours – £4.00 per vehicle
The Planetarium – Morning Stars – 4th February 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-planetarium-show
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 2017 are:
- Saturday 11th March 2017 – booking is open
- Other dates – 10th June, 23rd September, 9th December.
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.
There is also a visual story to help you prepare for your visit.
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. 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 3 December 2016. Booking opens 10.am Friday 4th November 2016.
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
Our Autism Friendly Early Opening mornings return this spring 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:
Saturday 22 nd April
Saturday 20 th May
Saturday 17 th June
Saturday 15 th July
Saturday 19 th August
Saturday 16 th September
How to book, Places are limited, so booking is essential.
To ensure a calm, relaxed environment in the ticket office, we will be operating timed entry slots. These are:
08.45, 09.00, 09.15, 09.30
The Exhibition will open to the general public at 10.00.
Tickets are currently on sale for April via our Eventbrite page. If you would like to receive an email notification when 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.
Friday 7 April 10.30am – 12 noon
Registration Required This Easter 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.
No extra charge – just the usual entry fee.
Then stay for the afternoon to enjoy more hands-on activities for families as part of our Bytes Festivals.
Please visit our accessibility pages to view our visual story and sensory map, which can help people to prepare for their visit.
To make sure the event works to everyone’s benefit, we are asking people to register in advance – please register on Eventbrite.
If you need more details, please email Claire Marston, Head of Learning.
Chelmsford Museum have added a number of autism resources to their website including FAQs and a visual guide. http://www.chelmsford.gov.uk/accessibility-museum
As Chelmsford Museum works towards gaining the NAS Autism Friendly Award, we’re holding out first, low-key event 1pm-4pm on Sunday 2nd April to mark World Autism Awareness Day. The event is free.
All visitors but especially those on the autistic spectrum, will have the opportunity to ‘dig’ for archaeology, handle historic objects, dress-up in replica & period costume and pose for a souvenir digital photo in front of a period ‘green screen’ backdrop. We will be offering puzzles, a detective trail and the opportunity to explore the galleries using our guide to the sensory experiences in the Museum. A comfy ‘chill-out’ area will be available for those needing time to relax, and ear defenders will be available to borrow. There will also be a quiz aimed at visitors who know little about ASC but who are interested in finding out more. Pre-visit information is available here: https://www.chelmsford.gov.uk/leisure-theatres-and-museums/museums/chelmsford-museum/your-visit-to-chelmsford-museum/accessibility-at-chelmsford-museum/ or telephone 01245 605700 and ask for Amanda or Yvonne.
Autism friendly sessions second Saturday of every month. See, Make and Do. Drop in, free.
Saturday 10th June 2017, early opening for children who have autism and other needs and their families, 9.15-10.30. Each month a different gallery will be opening early.
In June our Living Worlds and Nature Discovery galleries will be open earlier. Come along to enjoy and explore together.
Activities take place before the museum opens to the general public. There is also a quiet room. Sessions are free, no need to book. For children aged 5-16. For more information contact Victoria Grant on 0161 306 1770 email@example.com or see the website.
Liverpool Museums – Liverpool – various venues see below
Liverpool Museums are working with Autism Together to put on a number of autism events. Sessions are free but need to be booked.
Big Art for Little Artists, Walker Art Gallery
Sunday 26 March 2017, 10am-12noon
The Big Art for Little Artists gallery is for early years and children under five. It will be open for a quiet morning 10am to 12 noon. Between 10.30-11.30am you can join us for interactive story telling and rhymes, craft activity and a fun interactive exploration.
Sunday 30 April 2017, 10am-12noon
World Museum will be open for a quiet morning between these times.
Visitors can take part in the following workshop between 10.30 and 11.30am:
- Exploring rock pools: Come and meet our rock pool animals and find out about how they survive in their sea side home. Find out about all kinds of animals living in UK waters and how you can find out who’s living on your local beach. This is an informal drop in session suitable for all ages.
See our autism-friendly guide to World Museum (pdf) which has photos of spaces inside and outside the Museum, along with useful information.
Sunday 28 May, 10am-12 noon
The Museum of Liverpool will be open for a quiet morning between these times.
Sunday 25 June, 10am-12 noon
World Museum will be open for a quiet morning between these times.
Visitors can take part in a workshop between 10.30 and 11.30am.
****For more information on all these events please see the Liverpool Museums website.
Tate – Liverpool
Tate Liverpool are offering autism events in February half term. 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 our light room and dark room, and enjoy mark-making in a playful environment. Find different objects and textures to make interesting marks on different surfaces in this messy activity.
For more information on the session download the session handout.
Please download our new autism friendly guide.
10th April 2017 11.00-12.30
10th April 2017 at 13.30–15.00
For more info please see the website http://www.tate.org.uk/whats-on/tate-liverpool/workshop/creative-studio-0
Great blog here on the event – http://www.autismtogether.co.uk/autism-friendly-and-bacon-at-the-tate/
Early Birds Quiet Visits enables families with children who have an Autism Spectrum Condition to come along and enjoy our Brick Dinos Exhibition without the hustle and bustle of the general public.
Taking place on the last Sunday of each month (February – May 2017), BRICK DINOS will open its doors at 9.00am and remain available exclusively to pre-booked visitors until 10.00am to allow families the opportunity to fully explore the exhibition and its interactives. Staff will alert families a few minutes before the exhibition opens to the general public at 10.00am, at which point all are welcome to stay and explore the rest of the museum site for free.
Next date 26th March 2017.
Anyone can come along, but we do ask that everyone respects the need for some people to have a quieter experience and these early sessions have been designed for children affected by autism that make the normal noise of the museum challenging.
Advance booking for these sessions is essential. Normal exhibition admission charges apply.
Please telephone 01670 624455 or email to book or if you have any queries or special requirements.
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 – firstname.lastname@example.org
The Story Museum – Oxford
The Story Museum have ‘relaxed visits’ for their new exhibitions. Next one is Sunday 2nd April 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 email@example.com Visual story is on the website.
As part of World Autism Awareness Week, families with children who are on the autism spectrum are invited to enjoy free early doors access to our new ancient Egypt exhibition The Tomb, Ancient Egyptian Burial at the National Museum of Scotland, Edinburgh.
Early Doors access is from 09:00 on Saturday 1st and Sunday 2nd April 2017 and there will be an opportunity to try out our new ancient Egypt handling resource with real and replica objects.
We will also be piloting a range of free backpacks that families can borrow, with resources and activities to help you enjoy a self-led visit around the museum. Places are limited, so if you are interested in coming along please either contact firstname.lastname@example.org or telephone 0300 123 6789. We can then send you full details including where to come and also what to expect to see in this new exhibition.
Haslemere Educational Museum – Surrey
New #autism friendly events have started at this museum. Booking essential.
Next event Monday 10th April 2017 11am-1pm 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. email@example.com Telephone 01428 642 112
TYNE AND WEAR
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 half term Wednesday 22nd February 2017 9-10am. Free but booking is essential book tickets here
This half term we’re opening for an early private museum viewing for people with autism, learning disabilities or sensory and communication disorders, along with their families and carers.
Those booked on to this event will have access to the museum from 9am before the museum is open to the general public.
You can download a Visual Story for the museum here which may help prepare those with ASC for their visit.
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:
- Thinktank – Sat 18th February 2017, 9-11am
- Thinktank – Sat 22nd April 2017, 9-11am
- Blakesley Hall – Sat 3rd June 2017, 9-11am
- 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: 2nd April, 7th May, 4th June, 2nd July, 6th August, 3rd September, 1st October, 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: firstname.lastname@example.org
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/
Early Bird: Sensory Play Days -17 March 2017, 28 April 2017, 19 May 2017
9.15am – 10.00am
First session free!
£2 per child, per session.
A stimulating experience for children aged up to 16 years to play creatively and explore using inspiring and sensory materials.
Our Early Bird sessions are designed for SEN children, as individuals or as part of a group booking.
The sessions cater for up to 12 children, to provide a calm space for them to explore. Siblings are also welcome to join in the fun.
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: email@example.com or call 02476237542.
Places are limited to a first come, first served basis.
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 25th February 2017 8.30-10am when doors open to general public. Free but please book your place https://www.eventbrite.co.uk/e/early-birds-tickets-27927786762
Early Birds is a great way to explore the museum at a quiet time, away from the hustle and bustle of crowds. Our galleries will be open for families to explore and play with interactive exhibits.
The Media Café will be opening early to serve breakfast. There will also be a sensory area in the café.
After 10:00, families are of course welcome to stay and continue to enjoy their visit to the museum.
Useful information –
Our Visual Story 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 12th March 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.
Visual stories for the event are also available – http://www.yorkcastlemuseum.org.uk/access/
Updated 9th June 2017