Haslemere Museum and Jigsaw School have teamed up to help special needs visitors get the most out of museum visits.
Autism gives people a special view of the world which can make unexpected events and visits to unfamiliar places very challenging but this initiative can help with that.
Hayley Locke, a senior teacher at Jigsaw, visited the museum, which already had many facilities for school visits, after being approached by them.
She said it felt like a safe place “with lots of interactive activities”. Hayley added: “I could see our pupils enjoying a trip there, including those I wouldn’t usually suggest to visit a museum.”
Kay Topping, the museum’s education officer, visited Jigsaw to watch some classroom sessions as the school worked on preparing pupils to visit the museum’s dinosaurs gallery. The class teacher demonstrated the four-step format used, based on a method called Attention Autism. This ranged from handling dinosaur and fossil toys to making fossils.
“It was great to see the children in their own environment and see how a session works at school,” said Kay.
“I learnt not to expect them to engage too much, and that engagement is more likely to be with individuals rather than as a group.”
Six pupils aged six to 11 went on the museum visit – which was a great success and included a session on dinosaurs, handling the toys and making fossils. The children were prepared with the visual schedule and social story and arrived to a familiar face.
“The trip went well, especially as this was a totally new environment for the children,” Kay said.
Hayley agreed: “It was lovely to see each pupil engaging with the activities. The preparation and the familiar learning format certainly helped them get a lot more out of it.
“One pupil was nervous of the new place but once calm he enjoyed stirring the plaster to make fossils. Another loved all the dinosaur toys and is now keen to explore other animals in the museum.”
Further visits are planned including to the African exhibition.
Photos show Harry exploring dinosaur toys and Tristan getting to grips with the ammonite