For parents with kids on the Autism Spectrum, there are many experiences that we have to miss out on due to large, loud crowds. Children on the Autism Spectrum can be over stimulated easily and being put in an environment with a lot of people can lead the child to having a meltdown. My oldest son is on the spectrum and though the meltdowns have become fewer as he’s gotten older, instead over stimulating environments effect his attitude. He becomes “snippy”, short tempered, quick to argue with his brother in other words not pleasant to be around for the rest of the day.
We don’t take advantage of the museums in DC as much as we should mainly because of the crowds. Recently we discovered a hidden gem in Baltimore, The Walters Art Museum. This museum is fantastic for a child on the spectrum, don’t get me wrong it’s great for all kids but for children who are on the spectrum it’s pretty amazing. Here is why:
- When you enter you can choose to pick up an audio guide for children and/or adults for free also there are “Family Guides”, which are packets of pictures with descriptions and a map of the museum. Each packet is designed for a section of the museum, Asian Art for example. It includes 9 cards with pictures, interesting information about the artwork like how they brought the sculpture into the building, and questions to encourage your child to think about the artwork after seeing it. If your child becomes anxious about being in the museum and wants to leave you can use the cards to keep track of what you have seen and how many more pieces of art you have left to see. On one of the cards is a map of the museum with paw prints perfectly pointing you to where you will see the artwork on the cards in your packet. And the best part is that you can take this packet home with you! No stress for you as the parent when your child bends the cards or decides he likes them better folded in the packet.
- On the bottom floor there is a Family Art Center where children can create art, there is a free drop-in activity on Saturdays and Sundays.
- On each floor there is a “kids cart” that has dress up costumes that the children can wear appropriate for that section, for example knights on the floor where you will find actual knight armor. Also there are several children’s books related to the artwork, no one will bat an eye if you lay on the floor and read to your children right there like we did. Also available are small art kits that children can borrow to take with them around the museum and draw when the creative spark hits them.
- What I love the most about this museum is the layout, the rooms are small and often you are completely alone. So if your child becomes over stimulated in vast large rooms filled with artwork and it’s hard for them to resist running from one end of the room to the other this museum will be perfect for you! Also because you are often alone your child won’t be stared because of odd behavior, hand flapping or chewing on an oral-motor stimulation tool.
- Many of the rooms have small little book cubbies on the side of benches with children’s books that relate to the artwork. This is perfect for kids who need some time out of the tour to be quiet and alone.
- And the favorite part of the museum for my boys was the room with the chess set. They immediately set up the board and played.
If you have family coming to town for the holidays I highly recommend a day in Baltimore to visit The Walters Art Museum, there is no admission fee, parking options are plentiful as well. There is something there for everyone!