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Gainesville, FL: Museum to offer "safe space" for people with autism

GAINESVILLE, Fla. – Crowded, noisy environments, like zoos and museums, can be stressful and make it difficult for some people on the autism spectrum to enjoy learning. In an effort to create a more inviting environment for all, the Florida Museum of Natural History hosts Museum for Me programs multiple times a year that allow some visitors early access to exhibits in a peaceful and less crowded environment….

The events are open to adults and children on the autism spectrum and their friends, families and caregivers. Museumgoers are immersed in a calmer atmosphere as overhead sounds are changed to soothe the space, and strobe lighting is suspended to help those with light sensitivity. Special sensory maps are provided to guests with information on how each exhibit has been modified to prepare them ahead of each section. For those who start to feel overwhelmed and need a quiet space, education classrooms are converted to reflection rooms, complete with dimmed lighting and educational books….

The concept for Museum for Me was created in 2016 by Casey Wooster while earning her master’s degree in museum studies at the University of Florida. Tasked with designing a hypothetical museum program, she found inspiration in her brother, who is autistic.

“While today more people know about autism spectrum disorder, many did not while we were growing up in the 1990s and early 2000s. I wished to create a museum experience accessible for all. Something my brother and I would want to attend together as children,”

said Wooster, who is now a collections assistant at the UF George A. Smathers Libraries….

Although it began as an annual event, popularity and demand led to the program expanding to multiple dates throughout the year. The most recent event was held Dec. 3. …


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