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Sovereign Hill’s ASD Friendly Day Was Very Well Planned and a Great Success

Posted on 16 June 2014 under News

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Sovereign Hill

Visitors were told about the times to expect the loud noises around the museum

Saturday 5 April saw Sovereign Hill open its doors to celebrate World Autism Awareness Day. Sensory friendly activities were planned to enable people on the Autism Spectrum enjoy their day with families.

Janelle Spierings was the driving force behind this wonderful event, and she tells us how it went:

“Our initial planning required us to select the quietest day of the year for visitor numbers to Sovereign Hill and it just so happened to coincide with World Autism Day!

“People with Autism Spectrum Disorders interpret things literally and can find the effort of daily living exhausting and confusing.

“Imagine then, the stress that someone with ASD would go through entering Sovereign Hill, where nothing is like the world they live in: it could be a very stressful place. To alleviate some of these stresses Sovereign Hill opened early for those who pre-booked to avoid the line up to get inside. Visitors that arrived early had a special presentation where they met some of the key people in costume such as the Trooper and the Doctor. These staff members were approached throughout the day by families and they were able to introduce them to other Sovereign Hill characters.

“We conducted shortened mine tours that minimised loud noises and the time spent underground in the dark. There were places to go for a quiet break and to do some basic craft activities and our visitors were told about the times to expect the loud noises around the museum.

“Visitors also wore wrist bands to make them easily identifiable to all staff working in the museum on the day, and any visitors who couldn’t make the early start still had a quiet entrance to the museum until lunch time.

“A surprising activity that was quite calming was gold panning in the creek.

Staff were abuzz with excitement

“The feedback from both the families that visited and the staff who were working on the day was amazing. Staff were abuzz with excitement, knowing that they had made a real difference to our visitors and their families on the day. As one of our visitors commented after their visit:

“Sovereign Hill was never a place I had dreamed that I could take my son because it is so different. The social scripts and all the information available before we visited meant that we had an awesome day, with no meltdowns!”

“The Sovereign Hill Education Department had also written Social Stories that have been developed to assist visitors on the Autism Spectrum to become more familiar and comfortable the museum before they visit. They are available here.

“We learnt a lot from this very first attempt at a sensory friendly day and will definitely be doing it again.”

We would like to thank Janelle Spierings, Sovereign Hill Education Officer, and all the other staff at Sovereign Hill for supporting the ASD community in this wonderful way. What a great way to help celebrate our community, create inclusion and have fun!

Thank you Sovereign Hill