Across the world, several museums are committed to accessibility and accommodations for the general public, such as closed captions for the D/HH (deaf and hard-of-hearing) visitors and ramps for wheelchair users. However, not all disabilities and disorders are visible. When it comes to working with people who have a specific disability or disorder, it is critical that museum professionals be aware of what should be done to ensure that visitors with disabilities or disorders have a pleasant experience in the museum. Numerous museums have already created programs for people with specific disabilities or disorders. Workshops about disabilities and disorders should be presented by professionals or guest speakers to spread awareness. How can individuals with Autism benefit from museums? What additional features can museums provide as services to the Autism community? In order to examine the benefits that might be offered by museums to individuals with Autism, it is necessary to examine Autism as well as the museum environment. First, an explanation about autism is necessary. Autism is a disorder that affects the individual’s brain before the age of three years, making communication and social skills difficult. It can also influence the individual’s behavior. Boys are more likely to have autism than girls. Autism is one of the 5 brain disorders that are classified under the Autism Spectrum Disorders (ASD). The other 4 brain disorders are: Asperger Syndrome, Childhood Disintegrative Disorder, Persuasive Developmental Delay-Not Otherwise Specified (PDD-NOS), and Rett Syndrome (WebMD). Research implies that there are two critical factors which might cause autism. The first factor is genetic while the second factor is environmental. “Researchers are starting to identify particular genes that may increase the risk for ASD. Still, scientists have only had some success in finding exactly which genes are involved. Most people who develop ASD have no reported 2! ! family history of autism, suggesting that random, rare, and possibly many gene mutations are likely to affect a person’s risk. Having increased genetic risk does not mean a child will definitely develop ASD. Many researchers are focusing on how various genes interact with each other and environmental factors to better understand how they increase the risk of this disorder. As with genes, it’s likely that more than one environmental factor is involved in increasing risk for ASD. And, like genes, any one of these risk factors raises the risk by only a small amount. Most people who have been exposed to environmental risk factors do not develop ASD” (NIH). While there is no cure for ASD, treatment options are available. Fortunately, abundant resources are available for families with ASD children. Autism is different from Down’s Syndrome for particular reasons. “Down’s kids tend to be very friendly, happy go-lucky. Autism kids tend to have a bit of anxiety, not knowing what is coming next. They may not appear as friendly or outgoing. The anxiety level overtakes them” (Smith).
Museum Studies (BS)
Department, Program, or Center
Department of History (CLA)
Varner, Rachel, "Museums and Visitors with Autism: An Overview of Programs" (2015). Thesis. Rochester Institute of Technology. Accessed from
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