Amaze's Prue Stevenson: Creating a social script for National Gallery of Victoria’s incredible Relaxed Morning program

Amaze has worked with the National Gallery of Victoria (NGV) to develop social scripts for NGV International on St Kilda Road and the Ian Potter Centre: NGV Australia in Federation Square.
The NGV is a place for everyone and these scripts are designed to help autistic children and their families prepare for their visit to the gallery.

While targeted for children, these scripts can be used by autistic people of any age.
The social scripts are available for free download on the NGV Kids website, under ‘Tips for a low sensory visit’
Renowned autism advocate Prue Stevenson and Amaze’s Capacity Buiding Co-ordinator Fiona Ransley visited NGV to create a social script for the Relaxed Morning program (Sunday September 2).
The Relaxed Morning program provides autistic visitors, those who sensory sensitivities, or living with a disability, an opportunity to view the Melbourne Winter Masterpieces exhibition MoMA at NGV: 130 Years of Modern and Contemporary Art in a more relaxed environment, with fewer people and reduced noise.
Visitors will have exclusive access to the MoMA at NGV exhibition, as well as the interactive children’s space New York! New York! for Kids, Great Hall, Gallery Kitchen and NGV design store.
Prue explains how she went about the script design process:
“When we do a social script I like to go in raw (experience the space as a neurotypical person would),” Prue says.
“I might have with me a fidget-by-design object, such as my knitting, or goo. If I didn’t have those things with me I’d be stimming openly.
“I explain (to NGV staff) what an experience might look like (from an autistic viewpoint). We train them (staff) on the go.
“We look at things like putting your things in the cloak room, waiting in line for tickets, the location of the information desk and cafe and how an autistic person might navigate that space.
“For a relaxed event, for example,  it would be good to not have to line up. Or if there is a line, have a picture/sign suggesting people leave a one-metre gap between them and others so there is plenty of space.
“I then gave staff an insight into how I would navigate the actual exhibition, looking at options as to where I’d go if I were feeling overwhelmed, what it might be like navigating the exhibition in a crowd, what I’d do for downtime to get my stamina back up.
“I explained what it was like when there are way too many people in a space, how the multiple sounds and crowd can be very overwhelming on a social and sensory level.
“Art is a sensory experience. It activates your sensory perception, and the MoMA exhibition is set up really well, in sections, with corridors and space for you to have time away from the crowd.
“Staff also asked us about things that should be put in a social script, such as the experience of visiting a bathroom and alerting people to whether there might be hand-dryers (some are sensitive to the noise they generate).
“If there will be hand dryers operating, for instance, we can put in the social script that people might like to take along some noise-cancelling headphones.
“A goal is to to see security guards trained in autism.
“Autistic people can have alternative behaviors and can get sensory overload, but you are expected to pass as neurotypical and your brain is working so hard to do that. It’s hard if you are tired and overwhelmed.
“Security guards are there to protect the art but autistic behavior can be seen as anti-social or a security threat.
“Because they constantly watch, and because you feel constantly surveyed, it can be really difficult.
“If you have a meltdown they might try to grab or touch you and that situation can get exacerbated very quickly. Being touched when you have sensory overload can be really hard to deal with.
“The social script is really important because it can be accessed by adults and families, while in the comfort of home, to understand where to go and what to expect, what you can and can’t touch, at the exhibition.”
The Relaxed Morning program runs Sunday 2 September from 8.30–10am. Tickets can be purchased via the NGV website.

Back to top