Curated

Sensory Explorations at Museum of Fine Arts, Houston

The Intersection of ARTS and MEDICINE


By Britni R. McAshan | July 2, 2018

Museums are designed to be stimulating, but individuals with special needs require special accommodations to make the most of their visits. The Museum of Fine Arts, Houston (MFAH) has partnered with local and national groups to develop three programs that serve specific populations.

The newest program, Sensory Explorations, is designed for young adults on the autism spectrum.

“There are certain things that we need to be aware of and certain things that we can try and build into the program to make sure it is as relevant and accessible for this particular population as possible,” said Chelsea Shannon, an educator, writer and art historian at MFAH.

Sensory Explorations came about through a local partnership with Social Motion, a nonprofit founded by Wendy Dawson.

“I founded Social Motion eight years ago because of my stepson, Cameron,” Dawson said. “I went into the community to find the social skills and extracurricular activities that he needed, and there was not anything for him. We teach our students with autism and similar special needs the social skills that they need—we call it ‘front loading’—so when they meet occasions and situations in life, they will be able to handle them.”

Sensory Explorations usually draws 10-12 participants for each session. Individuals in the group begin their museum experience with a gallery discussion and end by making their own art.

“We know that there is a real interest in exploring a multi-sensory experience for this population, and in kind of a safe and controlled environment,” Shannon said. “They have a chance to process, reflect and talk about the experience they have just had.”

Sensory Explorations is a great way for young autistic adults to experience the best of Houston’s cultural resources, Dawson added.

MFAH’s other special programs include Art Beyond Sight, for visitors who are blind or have low vision, and Looking Together, for visitors with dementia or Alzheimer’s disease.

Art Beyond Sight, a national program started by Art Education for the Blind, emphasizes a verbal and tactile experience at the museum. At MFAH, tours begin with a detailed description of the piece of art the group will encounter. Gallery leaders also bring in materials used in the art work—including different types of stone, textured paint or raised and textured surfaces and diagrams.

Looking Together, a program made possible through a partnership between the MFAH and the Alzheimer’s Association’s Houston and Southeast Texas Chapter, begins each session by asking participants to observe an object and reflect on what they see.

“The program kind of becomes a way to access memories or life experiences,” Shannon explained. “In that way, it is a little bit less structured than the other programs because it really is based on that moment of connection and reflection.”

For Dawson, MFAH’s special programs help participants experience Houston on a deeper level.

“Like my son, everyone with autism strives to be normal … to have the chance to experience these beautiful attributes that our city has in a ‘normal’ way that is tailored to their needs,” she said. “Maybe it’s just turning the lights down a little bit lower or limiting the amount of participants that come through. But it allows them basically equal access to everything that we love and enjoy and take so for granted in life.”

Sensory Explorations, Art Beyond Sight and Looking Together are free programs, but space may be limited. Museum of Fine Arts, Houston is located at 1001 Bissonnet St. For information about special tours, email tours@mfah.org.




Social Posts

profile_image

University of Houston

@UHouston

RT @FrontierFiesta: 📸LIVE right now at #FrontierFiesta! https://t.co/PwwxUeSu3V

33 mins ago
profile_image

Veterans Affairs

@DeptVetAffairs

Today’s #VeteranOfTheDay is Marine Corps Veteran Brad Pesek. Brad served for 20 years and made multiple #OIF deployments https://t.co/JDJk73aIjb

49 mins ago
profile_image

University of Houston

@UHouston

RT @MarchMadnessTV: Houston is on a mission to make the city proud.Kelvin Sampson has fostered a family atmosphere all around @UHCougarMB…

2 hours ago
profile_image

BCMHouston

@bcmhouston

See how Melanie McNeal stays fit in this week's healthy habits post. https://t.co/YDURUq6Ii5 #healthy #habits

2 hours ago
profile_image

Baylor College of Medicine

BaylorCollegeOfMedicine

For decades, the link between education and healthcare has been the driving concept behind development of programs to improve community health at Baylor College of Medicine. Learn more about our initiatives: https://bit.ly/2t4NynV #education #community

2 hours ago
profile_image

Veterans Affairs

@DeptVetAffairs

SECCA Presents Staged Reading of WWII Pacific Engagement Veterans’ Stories https://t.co/rFBKFyDPpc via @yesweekly

3 hours ago
profile_image

U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs

VeteransAffairs

Happy Birthday, Frank!

3 hours ago
profile_image

Texas Children's

@TexasChildrens

Families with children of all abilities are invited to the annual Texas Children’s West Campus Family Fun Run on Saturday, April 6. Register your family at https://t.co/kj6xpuWTSJ

3 hours ago
profile_image

MD Anderson Cancer Center

@MDAndersonNews

“People who carry hereditary mutations do not necessarily get cancer, but their risk of developing the disease at some point during their lifetime is higher than average,” says our @KarenLuMD.How we help those with genetic risk of #cancer: https://t.co/W6Rf3WPl9r #endcancer

3 hours ago
profile_image

MD Anderson Cancer Center

MDAnderson

"I was really worried about the recovery," recalls Bridgette Fleming, who underwent laparoscopic colon resection in late March 2018 to treat her colon cancer. "But I was surprised that even after a major abdominal surgery, I only had to use the pain pump twice a day for a few days."Here's how our Enhanced Recovery Program is helping patients like Bridgette rebound faster after surgery. #endcancer

4 hours ago
profile_image

MD Anderson Cancer Center

@MDAndersonNews

Congratulations on another great event, @CathyEngMD, and thanks for all you do to help us #endcancer. https://t.co/tzg8ukTJuL

4 hours ago
profile_image

MD Anderson Cancer Center

@MDAndersonNews

RT @wendyegriffith: #AYACancer Scholarship Program is open for @MDAndersonNews & @KidsAndCancer patients aged 16-29 seeking post-high schoo…

4 hours ago
profile_image

Rice University

@RiceUniversity

A candlelight vigil was held March 20 commemorating the 50 lives lost in the New Zealand mosque attacks.On March 27, Rice will host an Islamophobia teach-in all day in solidarity with the Muslim community: https://t.co/ugA11IDcGz https://t.co/8siFEZshmc

4 hours ago
profile_image

Veterans Affairs

@DeptVetAffairs

Inside Oneida County's fight to end Veteran homelessness https://t.co/0QosaHZPhl via @uticaOD

5 hours ago
profile_image

BCMHouston

@bcmhouston

For decades, the link between education and healthcare has been the driving concept behind development of programs to improve community health at Baylor College of Medicine. Learn more about our initiatives: https://t.co/wtLRXl71w6 #education #community https://t.co/kyJoF4rIye

6 hours ago