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MMFA presents supplies pack for families of autistic children

Photo: Montreal Museum of Fine Arts
Photo: Montreal Museum of Fine Arts
Montreal - Wednesday, May 18, 2022

by Randy Pinsky

Museum trips for families with autistic kids will now be a bit easier and a lot more enjoyable, thanks to a new initiative provided by the Montreal Museum of
Fine Arts (MMFA). 

Launched on World Autism Awareness Day, April 2, the museum is offering a new way to explore its collection. 

Dubbed the Sensational Supplies Pack, each toolkit includes calming objects, multisensory material, noise-cancelling headphones and dark sunglasses, guided activities as well as a detailed map of the museum. Available for free upon reservation, families are invited to visit on weekends from 10 am to 12 pm.

Since 2015, in order to best inform its approach in welcoming neurodiverse individuals, the MMFA has implemented art therapy, creative workshops and guided tours with organizations such as The Gold Centre, Miriam Foundation, Autisme sans limites as well as several schools as part of its Art of Being Unique program. 

“We at the museum are experts in the way that we interact with the artworks, and these schools and organizations are experienced in how we can engage with autistic and neurodiverse people,” explained Mélanie Deveault, director of the Education and Wellness Division, MMFA. “We can share our knowledge in order to make the museum even more accessible.” 

Last year, the museum also launched a guide intended for professionals in the museum field, in collaboration with the Dallas Museum of Arts and the Palais des Beaux-Arts deLille.

Deveault’s passion for the project is evidenced in her commitment to fostering wellness, inclusion and togetherness through art such as The Art of Being Unique program, as stated on the website. 

On World Autism Awareness Day, the MMFA posted, “Today and every other day, let’s embrace the unique ways we engage with the world and welcome those of others.” The Sensational Supplies Packs have been recognized by families and museum educators alike as being a great way for children to explore at their own pace, together, explained Patricia Lachance, media relations officer. 

Guided activities can be calming for autistic individuals who may have trouble expressing or regulating their emotions. For example, talking about artworks might be made easier if they can simultaneously receive tactile stimulation. 

The process of creating the maps was also illuminating, observed Deveault. In identifying potential triggers, for example lights and sounds, staff tried to perceive the museum through the eyes of others. “C’est à double sense. It’s really a collaborative effort,” she noted. “Families are helping us to see the collection and the world in another way.” 

The museum is looking forward to welcoming families: “With people being isolated on and off for two years, we really believe museums can play a role in bringing people together,” said Deveault. 

For more information: www.mbam.qc.ca/en/activities/a-sensational-supply-pack-for-a-sensory-based-exploration-of-the-museum.