BENEFITING: PLEASE TOUCH MUSEUM
EVENT DATE: Oct 29, 2013
Please Touch Museum®, the Children’s Museum of Philadelphia™, believes that our brand of learning through play should be accessible to all children regardless of learning ability. With that in mind, we have worked closely with a variety of partners in Philadelphia to create a series of Museum events specifically for families of children with disabilities called Play Without Boundaries.
Access for Families of Children with Disabilities
Play Without Boundaries access events take place on Sunday mornings from 9:00am-11:00am before the Museum opens to the public and on weekday evenings after the Museum has closed. During these events, we turn off certain lights and sounds that can be challenging with children with special needs, and families are able to play and learn in a less busy setting. Each family that visits will have the opportunity to interact with staff members that are trained and knowledgeable in working with children with special needs in a museum setting that is designed for families of all ability levels. These events are wonderful opportunities for families to experience a less-crowded museum, be introduced to resources and opportunities from regional service providers, and meet other families who share similar experiences.
At the Museum we acknowledge that the challenge a family has when raising a child with disabilities is not only stressful socially, but also economically. That is why when we open our doors for these events to these grateful families they are visiting for free. Over the course of the next 12 months we plan to have four of these access events serving a total of at least 3,000 people. Our next Play Without Boundaries event will be held on Friday evening, October 18th.
How You Can Help
Your support for the Play Without Boundaries initiative will go directly to costs that support these access events, including:
1. Covering the admissions cost of each person that visits the Museum during the access events in the next 12 months.
2. Professional training for Museum staff that will work and play directly with the visiting families.
3. Help us purchase additional accommodations for families that include child sized wheelchairs, wheelchair trays, noise canceling headphones, and equipment for “cool down kits”.
Play Without Boundaries Highlights
In 2013 Play Without Boundaries was recognized with an honorable mention for MetLife’s Promising Practice Award by the Association of Children’s Museum.
Read about Play Without Boundaries here:
Please Touch Museum works with partners in the disability community to enrich student experience within our walls. In partnership with Melmark’s COLLAGE program, an Occupational Therapist offers an 8-week social skills program, helping group members toward achieving the individual social goals that each has established. In January 2013, the Museum hosted Melmark’s Traveling Art Show in our Program Room, giving students the opportunity to share their work with the broader community.
At an event in January of 2013, we featured a musical performance by Acting Without Boundaries (AWB), a program for children with special needs in elementary and high-school grades. This opportunity for AWB to role-model and perform a medley of songs from musicals they have performed was inspiring to our guests. After the performance parents were able to connect with AWB founder, Christine Rouse, who has cerebral palsy. By attending these events, we hope that many families will begin to recognize museums as a place for community building, will make new friends and choose to visit with us again either during our typical operating hours or during a future access event.
Parents of children with disabilities are grateful for Play Without Boundaries access events: "Thank you all who cared enough to make a difference. You accommodated us parents and our children and gave us a chance to visit without the crowds. Taking a typical 3 and 4yr. anywhere with crowds is stressful enough not to mention one child with autism and the other with an attention issue...When I walked in with my two young children greeted by happy smiles, a cool book, no crowds, really cool displays and people who cared made it a really worth wild trip. We loved it! Thanks to all!"
The Four Goals of Play Without Boundaries
Please Touch Museum's Play Without Boundaries initiative encompasses our efforts to create a comprehensive set of programs and services for children with special needs and their families, educators, and organizations that serve people with disabilities. The Museum aims to move beyond ADA standards and approach accessibility using best practices in the field.
1. Ensure that all children have equal access to engaging and meaningful learning experiences in an understanding and respectful environment, regardless of their socio-economic background and/or physical and cognitive ability.
2. To increase resources and accommodations for visitors with disabilities including materials printed in Braille, assistive listening devices, Quiet Kits and Museum Stories online guide, ensuring that all people feel welcome at Please Touch Museum and other Philadelphia arts and culture attractions.
3. To promote disability awareness among children age seven and younger.
4. To form lasting partnerships with organizations serving the disability community in the Philadelphia region.
More About Please Touch Museum and Play Without Boundaries
Please Touch Museum is a museum of first experiences and we act as a gateway to future arts and culture experiences. With the right people and the right tools, many children will have positive educational experiences that promote a lifelong love of learning. In our open-ended, child-directed and process driven environment, young children are freed by the absence of performance pressure and begin to equate learning with having fun. If and when families outgrow the Museum, it is our hope that they will begin visiting other cultural institutions.
Please Touch Museum currently partners with the following organizations: Albert Einstein Medical Center, Acting Without Boundaries; ArtReach; Clarke School for Hearing and Speech; the Center for Autism; Center for Autism Research; Dragonfly Forest; Easter Seals; Elwyn; Fun and Function; Garden State Discovery Museum; Inglis House; HMS School for Children with Cerebral Palsy; Kinney Center at Saint Joseph’s University; Melmark Pennsylvania; Overbrook School for the Blind; Philadelphia University Occupational Therapy Program; United Cerebral Palsy of Philadelphia; University of the Sciences in Philadelphia; Variety, the Children’s Charity of Philadelphia; and Village Care Family Services.
An example of daily programming using puppetry is our Melita character. Melita is a seven year old girl who was born with Cerebral Palsy and uses a wheelchair. The character was created by the Museum's Theater staff, with assistance from an advisory panel from the Child Life staff at the Children's Hospital of Philadelphia. Children's interactions with Melita support a dialogue about diversity of ability and how ultimately human similarities outweigh our differences. Melita offers children an improvisational and dramatic encounter that enhances the Museum experience and the process of learning through play.
Our Community Learning department represents our mission outside the Museum and works with educators and students across our region. For example, for students who face additional challenges in gaining adequate literacy skills at Overbrook School for the Blind and the Clarke School for Hearing and Speech, young learners are exposed to new techniques for reading including interactive art, math and science activities.
Our learning through play philosophy has been hailed by the American Academy of Pediatrics as “essential to the social, emotional, cognitive, and physical well-being of children beginning in early childhood. It is a natural tool for children to develop resiliency as they learn to cooperate, overcome challenges, and negotiate with others…It provides time for parents to be fully engaged with their children, to bond with their children, and to see the world from the perspective of their child. However, children who live in poverty often face socioeconomic obstacles that impede their rights to have playtime, thus affecting their healthy social-emotional development. For children who are under-resourced to reach their highest potential, it is essential that parents, educators, and pediatricians recognize the importance of lifelong benefits that children gain from play.
In 2011, our President and CEO, Laura Foster, was awarded Art Reach’s Commitment to Cultural Access Award.