Museum welcomes children for musical experience

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New Delhi, Jan 31 (IANSlife) The Indian Music Experience Museum (IME) launched Project Svaritha, a flagship community project aimed at children with neurodiverse needs (those with autism spectrum disorder and diagnosed intellectual disability) and children from socially disadvantaged backgrounds, in an effort to promote inclusivity in museums.

The study, which was funded by the Kotak Mahindra Investments Limited CSR Education and Livelihood Grant, identified key findings that museums can use to increase inclusion and accessibility when engaging with both of these groups.

The findings are now being implemented at the IME, and over 550 children from disadvantaged backgrounds, as well as over 50 with neurodiverse needs, have been brought to the museum for experiential learning and workshops based on the report findings.

The study discovered that many children with neurodiverse needs require individual assistance and frequent pause points in public places such as museums. Furthermore, careful transitions between spaces or activities using signals such as ringing a bell or clapping will ensure the children’s comfort. Many are non-verbal and require assistance in expressing their needs; museums can provide communication kits to assist them in doing so.

The museum environment should be designed for sensory sensitivity, with no background music, a consistent temperature throughout, and warm, bright lighting. Multisensory, customisable exhibits, as well as exhibits celebrating diversity and advocating for inclusion, are effective ways to engage children with neurodiverse needs. The study also discovered that children would prefer exclusive time at the museum, in guided tours with groups of three or four for no more than two or three hours, with breaks every 30-60 minutes. Museums can send a pre-visit information pack to help parents and caregivers prepare for the visit and assess the children’s needs.

The second study, which looked at children from low-income families — the first of its kind in India — discovered that these children value choice and agency during outings, preferring to explore on their own terms. Museums can accomplish this by having fewer rules, open-ended questions, and time for play. These children seek linguistic diversity and representation in museums because they frequently do not feel like they belong; museums can change this by developing multilingual instructions for how to use exhibits, hygiene facilities, and other things that may be unfamiliar to them. Food is an important part of any outing, and they especially enjoy exciting snacks and meals like biryani and noodles.

Looking at how museum staff and volunteers can help the children, the study discovered that they will need regular training on how to engage the children through music, movement, and roleplay. Training on communication toolkits and supporting parents and caregivers with meltdowns must be provided for children with neurodiverse needs. Staff and volunteers from socially disadvantaged backgrounds must be trained in trauma-informed practises in order to understand the types of backgrounds they may have had and the behaviours they may have exhibited.

(IANSlife can be contacted at ianslife@ians.in)

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