By Taylor Sands, Canucks Autism Network
In February 2020, Pamela Roberts, Public Programs Planner from MONOVA: Museum of North Vancouver approached me with excitement in her eyes after a presentation I did on behalf of Canucks Autism Network. Supported by a colleague from Science World, our presentation focused on making museums more inclusive for individuals who are on the autism spectrum and neurodiverse. Pamela expressed that the new Museum of North Vancouver (115 West Esplanade) would be opening soon and that they were interested in running some sensory friendly events.
Autism Spectrum Disorder is a neurodevelopmental disorder characterized by impaired social interaction, differences with verbal and non-verbal communication, and repetitive behaviours. According to the most recent figures from the Autism Society of BC, 1 in 40 children in British Columbia has an Autism Spectrum Disorder (ASD) diagnosis and there are approximately 60,000 children, youth, and adults on the spectrum.
Sensory Friendly Program Steering Group
Fast forward to the COVID-19 pandemic. Inclusion for individuals on the spectrum was not top of mind for many, as we were all just trying to stay afloat. However, Pamela was keen to get a sensory friendly program steering group together. Through this group, I had the opportunity to connect with educators and parents from the North Shore who were passionate about creating welcoming community spaces for autistic individuals.
After six planning sessions, Pamela invited the working group and some autistic adults and kids to the new Museum to assess the sensory needs of the space. We had so much fun walking around the space giving feedback about the various exhibits. As a result of this engagement work, MONOVA’s new Sensory Friendly Mornings program started to take shape.
Canucks Autism Network Training
Canucks Autism Network believes that every community should take action to include and support individuals on the spectrum, and we are thrilled to be working in collaboration with a museum who shares this belief.
In January 2022, Canucks Autism Network ran two trainings for MONOVA staff which included strategies for supporting individuals and families on the spectrum. The MONOVA staff were so engaged and insightful and had so many great comments and questions around this work.
“How some very simple adjustments can make our museum not only a more sensory friendly place for those on the autism spectrum, but in fact are great extensions of excellent customer service.” — Christopher Gauthier, Guest Services Coordinator
To learn more about Canucks Autism Network and the training services they provide, click here.
Sensory Friendly Mornings at MONOVA Launches February 20
The Museum of North Vancouver’s Sensory Friendly Mornings launches on Sunday, 20 February 2022. The event will run once a month from 10:00am to 12:00pm.
Subsequent dates are scheduled for 27 March, 1 May, and 29 May 2022. If popular, the program will continue for the whole year.
Families, caregivers and individuals will be able to visit the museum in a calm, relaxed atmosphere and take part in fun, safe activities with their own ‘bubble’. During this program adaptations will be made to the exhibits, such as lowered lighting and sound adjustments to enable a more relaxed visit. A quiet space will also be available for visitors who need a break.
Along with the opening program you can borrow one of our ‘Discovery Packs’ for use during your visit. These packs can be booked in advance when you book tickets and contain some things that may help your visit:
- Noise-canceling headphones (adjustable for ages 3-18)
- Map of the museum space
- Sensory fidget toys
- Some fun activities to use during your visit
All our staff are trained by Canucks Autism Network and are ready to welcome you!
- Due to the nature of this program pre-booking is recommended. However refunds are available if things don’t work out on the day. (Please note: Due to recent changes in the public health orders, drop-ins will also be welcome.)
- Standard admission fees apply. If you pay and can’t make it your tickets will be valid for a future visit.
- Vaccine passports are required for all visitors aged over 12 years. Masks are required at all times, although the Government of British Columbia does offer an exception for people who have sensory sensitives to masks. If you need to eat or drink, you can do so on the terrace.
Sensory Friendly Mornings is graciously supported by the Ames Family Foundation.
We rely on contributions, monthly or one-time gifts, to help MONOVA safeguard and expand our community’s archival and museum collections, build learning experiences and inspire future generations.
Donations are accepted through the Friends of the North Vancouver Museum & Archives Society, Registered Charity No. 89031 1772 RR0001.
We respectfully acknowledge that MONOVA: Museum and Archives of North Vancouver is located on the traditional lands of the Sḵwx̱wú7mesh (Squamish), and Səl̓ílwətaɬ (Tsleil-Waututh) First Nations, whose ancestors have lived here for countless generations. We are grateful for the opportunity to live, work and learn with them on unceded Coast Salish Territory.