Labelled: The History of Neurodiversity in Pre-existing Museum and Archive Collections

Disability Co-operative Network

What is the Museum of the Labelled?

DCN is very proud to be supporting this project. Jess and DCN believe that museums can influence society. ‘Museum of the Labelled’ will help to break down barriers, stereotypes and give the participants confidence and self-awareness. Museum of the Labelled’ will gather people’s thoughts and experiences, positive and negative, to raise awareness of neurodiversity in society.

To enhance ‘Labelled’, Jess would also like members of the wider community to submit online their own stories, research, art and thoughts throughout the project. Participants will gain an understanding of themselves, give them an opportunity to be involved with a creative project and to develop a sense of belonging and improved wellbeing.

What does this mean for pre-existing collections?

Through the process of ‘Museum of the Labelled’ Jess will begin to create a wider neurodiversity archive of museum objects, art and people’s voices. Neurodiversity history is currently dispersed, with small collections across many museums and archives. Objects are often not recorded fully or used for public engagement. The project aim is to allow museums and collections to share their neurodiverse objects in a central place and allow the public to discover neurodiverse history and highlight hidden stories.

How will the Museum of the Labelled develop?

Jess would like to do this by delivering a participatory art project and by locating relevant museum objects. Participants will:
a) learn about neurodiversity history through exploring archives and museum objects.
b) reflect on their own personal experiences, in comparison to, and informed by, archive items from the selected neurodiversity collection.
c) use this as a catalyst to create new accessible art works. The group will learn about the history of neurodiversity through exploring archives and museum objects. A high proportion of people who are neurodiverse will at some point have a mental illness.

DCN are supporting this project and will be presenting at Neurodiversity and the Arts at Autograph, London on Thursday 9 November and MA Conference Festival of Change on Friday 17 November.

Slides from Museums Association conference are here Slides for the Museums Association

I think I have objects which may relate to this project, what do I do next?

Check out our handout Neurodiversity infographic master
If you have objects which you think will relate to the history of neurodiversity or you are not sure. Do get in touch with Becki at info@musedcn.org.uk or Jess at dyspraxicme@gmail.com

Neurodiversity: Autism – resources for families and adults

Disability Co-operative Network

We have a number of twitter feeds about what neurodiversity is and how it is a positive asset to the workplace. There are a number of excellent organisations and associations, particularly local groups who have a great deal of experience. These organisations are happy to be contacted to raise awareness, inclusive practice and support.

Neurodiversity is Dyslexia, Dyspraxia,  Attention Deficit Disorder, Dyscalculia, Dysgraphia, ASD (autistic spectrum disorder) and Tourettes. Please see this diagram of profiles and how they relate to each other please see: http://www.achieveability.org.uk/files/1275491669/neuro-diversity-diagram.pdf

This page focuses on autism spectrum disorder and has a number of links and resources. This page sits alongside case studies and information available on this website. The aim for these resources is to support adults and families for inclusive practice in the workplace and service delivery of museums and cultural venues in the UK.

Workplace
Training (including online training that can start as little as £25), awareness, guidance and workplace support go to the National Autistic Society http://www.autism.org.uk/

Access to Work: Central Government funded scheme for people who may need support in the workplace https://www.gov.uk/government/publications/access-to-work-factsheet/access-to-work-factsheet-for-customers

Commonwealth Youth Council Toolkit for autism http://bit.ly/2ojQnzY

Families
Welcoming families and children with autism in museums via Kids in Museums  http://kidsinmuseums.org.uk/2016/04/04/welcoming-families-and-young-people-with-autism/

Autism in Museums (a blog site of articles by @TinctureofMuse)
https://tinctureofmuseum.wordpress.com/category/autism-in-museums/

Museum of Minds (a blog site by Jack Welch) http://museumofminds.wixsite.com/momcampaign

Museums and Autism (a tumblr site of articles and links by Sally Fort) http://museumsandautism.tumblr.com/

Autism in the Museum (U.S. site by Lisa Jo Rudy, consultant and writer) http://www.autisminthemuseum.org/

Remember to check this website and our twitter feed (@museumDCN) regularly for regular information, case studies and news.

BBC Cape Project for neurodiverse talent in the workplace

The Autistix at the BBC

DCN was both thrilled and honoured to be invited to hear more about CAPE (Creating A Positive Environment) Project entitled ‘Joining the Dots’ to attract and retain neurodiverse talent in the workplace at the BBC.

Neurodiversity is a spectrum of dyslexia, dyspraxia, dyscalculia, Attention Deficit Disorder, ASD (autistic spectrum disorder) and tourettes[1] . As these profiles are part of a spectrum, it means it effects people in different ways, such as poor working memory but strengthened with a strong visual memory. People with dyslexic traits can often see the big picture and how their organisation can be strategically influenced for better business. Other people may have difficulties reading body language but can consume information as their special interest and collections. No two people will have exactly the same traits.

The BBC event was a great opportunity to meet our colleagues from various social media groups such as #AXSChat and fellow tweeters who are passionate about diversity and inclusion for all. We were happily met by Chloe Spicer who designs multi-sensory experiences with books. Also Neil Milliken from #AXSchat a global accessibility group of various individuals, national and international organisations which invited DCN to be interviewed a few weeks ago. We caught up and networked with representatives including the National Autism Society, Sensory Spectacle and BBC.  It was great to see the Tate speaking about their work creating sound artat Tate Kids for children with neurodiverse profiles.

The historic Radio Theatre showcased neurodiverse talent for next 1 ½ hours. Amber Lee Dodd reading from her book ‘We Are Giants’, Rapper Smiffy, Dancer Javarn Carter-Fraser aka Nitro, Space Scientist Maggie Auderin Pocock, great band ‘The Autistix’ comedian Don Biswas and Alan Gardener ‘The Autistic Gardener.’ I’m not going to tell you what neurodiverse profiles these people have, because it shouldn’t matter. Their talent as communicators in their chosen field shone through the entire theatre. Their profiles are part of them, but really it’s their talent as people which is defining.

The message behind the event was the collaboration of sectors and recognising that our recruitment and methods may not attract the talent that we actively sought, as they are not accessible. BBC Employable Me shows that some techniques will not always attract the best candidate. Interestingly when Ashley spoke about his love of the Victorian era. He was sent to an auction house, not a museum.

Leena Haque said for discussion and afterthought should we cross out the word ‘dis’ in disability remain with the word ability’? We recognise ability, but let’s look at our methods to attract and retain neurodiverse and disabled talent in the workplace.

 

[1] Ref:  DANDA

Tom’s Ship of Stories ~ Alison Hale, Peoplescape Theatre

Tom's Ship of stories

Peoplescape Theatre Logo

Arts Council England Logo

 

 

 

 

A multi-sensory storytelling project for special schools created by Peoplescape Theatre.

In partnership with National Maritime Museum, Cutty Sark and Horniman Museums and Gardens.

Funded by the Arts Council

Peoplescape are a theatre education company working in London and Manchester. We work with all ages in schools, museums and community settings. Over the past 8 years we have been developing theatre projects in museums for children with special needs.

We aim to create theatre that is accessible to all, so we often limit our words, use music, sensory experiences. Our work is always interactive often with the children taking a role in the story.  In this project we were also working with a composer and digital mentor.

Following our recent successful projects for special needs audiences at the Museum of London and ‘Welcome to Cottonopolis’ at the People’s History Museum, John Rylands Library and Salford Museum, we were delighted to be collaborating with three wonderful museums in South London.

All of the museums were very keen to develop their offer to special needs groups.

We wanted to find a way to link the museums’ collections in a meaningful way and create a single story which would be performed in each museum for special school audiences.

Company Play day and Focus Group

The project began in February 2015 with a company play day at the Horniman Museum – exploring style, theme, techniques. This was followed by a focus group workshop bringing together Peoplescape, the museums and local special schools. We shared ways of working creatively with children with special needs, possible ideas for stories, and worked through drama to engage with objects, characters and themes inspired by the museums. We also talked to the teachers about universal themes that were pertinent for their children.

We came up with a simple story – It is the late 19th Century.  A 14-year-old apprentice says goodbye to his mum and boards a tea clipper for a voyage overseas.

Research and Development

We began a series of nine research and development workshops in three schools local to the museums. We worked with one class at each school. The groups were very different:

Year six high functioning children with ASD
Year one children with SLD and PMLD
Year four children with a variety of need: ASD, SLD and PMLD

Within these workshops we were able to try out ideas, themes and ways of working, including:

Storm Music created by the children

Call and response sea shanties

Multi-sensory objects and experiences
Multi-sensory objects and experiences

Multi-sensory objects and experiences e.g. wind created by sails, rope, tea, ice bags, UV fabric sea creatures

Different characters and moving in and out of role

Live video projecting of children whilst they were in role as sailors

Applied theatre techniques such as improvisation, thought tapping, forum theatre to explore the apprentice’s feelings about leaving home, the jobs he might do on the ship etc.

An interactive floor projection of the sea.

From the workshops we were able to find out what worked for all groups (e.g. the mum role and the emotion of leaving) and what didn’t (e.g. shadow puppets for children with visual impairments). Each group was also able to have a session in one of the museums. The children had ownership of the story and were able to contribute in their own way e.g. showing us their reactions to various digital and musical techniques, naming the main character ‘Tom’, choosing China as a destination for the ship, telling us their research about the harshness of conditions on board 19th century tea clippers.

Devising

All this work fed into our devising process where we shaped the ideas into an hour-long participatory performance.

Outreach Workshop

Before each performance we visit each school to deliver an outreach workshop to introduce ourselves and some of the props, songs and characters. We are also able to gauge the needs of the children and pitch the performance appropriately.

The performance – Toms Ship of Stories

“Prepare the Ship to set sail”

Prepare the Ship to set sail
National Maritime Museum

“Haul the ropes and hoist the sails!”

Haul the ropes and hoist the sails - Cutty Sark
Cutty Sark

“Are you ready for hard work? Scrub the decks!”

Are you ready for hard work? Scrub the decks! - Cutty Sark
Cutty Sark

“I don’t think I’d like to eat a jellyfish for my tea!”

I don’t think I’d like to eat a jellyfish for my tea!

‘pack the tea and load the crates’

pack the tea and load the crates - Cutty Sark
Cutty Sark

“I want the rain to stop, I want the wind to stop, I want to sleep”
“Tom is feeling sad…. I wonder if any of you can help?”

I want the rain to stop - Horniman Museum & Gardens
Horniman Museum & Gardens

Teachers’ responses:

“very well thought through, addressing the auditory, sensory and visual needs of the audience”

“the whole performance was fantastic, children were extremely engaged”

“Lovely to come to something that was pitched at just the right level”

We are currently working on the next phase of the project. We’re working with the museums to  develop their own sessions created specifically for special needs groups drawing on the techniques we’ve used in Tom’s Ship and the many things we’ve learned.

Alison Hale, Creative Director, Peoplescape Theatre
alison@peoplescapetheatre.co.uk
www.peoplescapetheatre.co.uk

 

Definition of terms:
SLD Severe Learning Disabilities
ASD Autistic Spectrum Disorders
PMLD Profound and Multiple Learning Disabilities (physical, learning & sensory impairments)

Photos © National Maritime Museum

Free showcase performance of Tom’s Ship of Stories, followed by discussion, at the National Maritime Museum on the 10th March, 3-5pm. Open to all those working in museums/theatre/education. Places must be reserved, contact alison@peoplescapetheatre.co.uk

 

The Secret Museum: Film Production with Autistic Young People ~ Suzanne Cohen

Filmmaker and educator Suzanne Cohen talks about her experiences of delivering media projects at the British Museum.

I have been facilitating weeklong film projects for young people with Autistic Spectrum Disorders (ASD) (13 – 19 years) in the summer holidays for the last seven years with an organization called Camden Summer University in collaboration with speech and language therapists from Whittington Health NHS.

Most of the courses have been hosted by the British Museum which is an excellent venue as it offers a large classroom plus lots of break out spaces for small group work, access to the collection and a very supportive environment created by Education Manager Katharine Hoare who we work closely with.

My role has been to devise exciting projects inspired by the location/exhibitions using a range of filmmaking techniques, which develop vocational skills. The end product is screened at a cinema in the British Museum in the Camden Summer University Young People’s Film Festival, which motivates us to do bigger and better things each year.

Of course the other important aim is to develop communication and interpersonal skills through group work. This gives the participants the opportunity to meet and make friends with other young people with similar interests who also have social communication difficulties or ASD.

Kate Bayley (Speech and Language Therapist – Team Leader) explains that ‘the course targets a number of vital skills for adulthood such as confidence, teamwork and independence. Social anxiety and individual needs can be supported by the therapists, so that the young people are free to focus on enjoying the galleries of the British Museum, and learning film skills from a professional. The feedback we get from young people and parents is that this can be a huge step in these young people’s lives!’

I was new to working with young people with ASD and initially I found it a struggle because things seemed to move slowly due to a range of issues which varied from student to student. These included short attention spans, focusing in on minute details, difficulties sharing and accepting others opinions, and lacking confidence/proficiency with IT.

In addition the young people with ASD found it difficult at times to be flexible and work in groups which led to some arguments and conflicts with each other. Increasing the number of adults present helped to ensure that everyone could supported to engage in the group as much as they wanted whilst allowing them opportunities to be taken out of the group situation if things became overwhelming for them. This year we had ten young people plus nine adults (myself and an assistant, a parent and 7 speech and language therapists per day).  Some of the young people knew each other from previous years and it was lovely to see them becoming more comfortable within the group situation.

The speech and language therapists have helped me to adapt my teaching for working with groups of young people with ASD, in the following ways:

  • Tightly structured activities, which get looser as the week progresses.
  • Presenting lesson plans on the board at the start of each section so expectations are clear and students know what to focus on now and what is happening next.
  • Explaining abstract concepts more thoroughly using simple unambiguous language and visual examples wherever possible
  • Including movement breaks to assist concentration and help students calm down or re-energise accordingly.
  • Class discussions need some preparation to be fruitful, e.g. break out into pairs first to enable them time and space to sound out or write down their views with others before contributing to the whole group .

The concept of ‘The Secret Museum’ animation was inspired by the mini tours we had been given to areas of the museum, which are not accessible to the public. The story is about a youth group on a day trip to the museum. We focus on four characters that get distracted by something and are lured away into a secret realm where they encounter an object come to life. Finally they come out of the situation unscathed returning to normality.

The idea was to make a collaborative film where each small group devised a main character and wrote and directed their particular storyline. I provided the narrative structure in order to pull the whole thing together and to help the students to create a more focused storyline. The speech and language therapists encouraged the use of interior monologues to develop empathy skills.

We used stop frame animation rather than live action party because the young people found exaggerated characterisation , facial expressions and movements easier to perform than ‘natural’  acting skills.

Each group storyboarded, shot, acted in and edited their sections, which were combined into a 4.5 minute film. You can see the results here (https://t.co/J3cdhd9gen); it is brimming with ideas and humour and is technically very proficient.

It has been great to see some of the young people returning year after year. I find the groups stimulating to teach and think the work they produce is very unique.

Here’s another animation (https://t.co/ykYsXsm8Sw) using monologues with avatars inspired by the Life and death
 Pompeii and Herculaneum exhibition.