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My mother and therapists have always taken me to museums and to art exhibits. I lost interest when I became a teen, as outings for people with disabilities center a lot on childlike activities. When The Warhol started an adult program, it caught my attention and motivated me to try museums again.
I’ve been an active participant in The Warhol’s sensory-friendly programs since their inception. Inclusionary activities are difficult to find as a now 22-year-old nonspeaker with autism. The programs allow adults to be themselves without judgment in a stimulating, safe environment, as well as provide socialization. I’ve made friends of all interests and abilities. Ability is not judged by appearance or body movements, and all staff associated with the programs have been absolutely fair to all, presuming competency and displaying kindness.
I use spelling to communicate. I rely on a communication regulation partner to keep my focus and to keep my body moving in appropriate ways. Initially, no one understood that my movements did not match my intent, so people did my arts and crafts for me, which was frustrating. I can communicate my visions and desires to a tee and produce artwork that matches my intent. Now, I love all my art projects and enjoy the process as well as being able to produce quality art, like silkscreening and art takeoffs on Warhol like Campbell’s soup labels.
Each time I visit the museum I learn something different and then reinforce it with age-appropriate art activities. I’m a fan of that method because, with my disability, I need to come at a topic in multiple ways so content sticks.
“Ability is not judged by appearance or body movements, and all staff associated with the programs have been absolutely fair to all, presuming competency and displaying kindness.”
Of all the activities, the silent discos are the best. The best! The atmosphere, chilling with my friends, and meeting more people in a “safe” place. I enjoy music, the louder the better. But the beauty of the disco is that others like soft music, and we are all accommodated by the headphones. And we dance as we are able or motivated.
As participants, we are asked to provide feedback about the programs. I would do anything to have others enjoy the gifts I have been given. I’m a fan of helping others; by doing so I gain more. Sensory-free programming has been successful at The Warhol. I would love to have adult programs around the city following their inclusive, age-appropriate guidelines.
In August, I attended a weeklong art camp at the museum. It came at a time when we are all suffering from a lack of socialization and stimulation, and I completely enjoyed every minute. It made my summer. Having a disability makes it especially difficult to find anything to do during COVID-19. Museum visits are hard to enjoy with others, so I appreciate the times I can visit and learn with a group of people who understand autism and other disabilities. My life’s mantra is I am certain life is good.
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