With 700,000 people on the autism spectrum in the UK, The Hunterian Museum and Art Gallery recently launched Sensory Backpacks for autistic visitors. The Backpacks and online pre-visit resource (a printed version of which is contained in the packs) are the outcome of two work placements undertaken by Masters Museum Studies student, Aimee Fletcher.

Aimee is very experienced in working with children on the autistic spectrum and for her Masters programme work placements, she was keen to put her experience to use in a museum setting.

Aimee developed a pre-visit resource as the first placement task, inspired in part by Glasgow Life’s Autism Aware campaign and Glasgow Museums’ project to create visual storyboards for each of their venues.  Once Aimee created the first resource, The Hunterian offered her a further related placement – planning and running an Autism Friendly Family event in the museum and developing the sensory backpacks.

The Hunterian aims to make its collections and displays fully accessible to visitors with varied sensory impairments.  The museum focussed on supporting visitors who are autistic or face sensory perception issues.

There are two sensory backpacks available.  Contents include: ear defenders; fidget toys; storybook; ‘What to Expect at The Hunterian Museum’ booklet; a magnifying glass; an ‘I want’ sheet – to allow a visitor with communication issues to indicate their immediate need, and PECS (Picture Exchange Communication System) to aid planning the visit.

Commenting on the backpacks, Ruth Fletcher, Education Manager, The Hunterian Museum & Art Gallery, commented: “We have been amazed by the response to the launch of our Sensory Backpacks for autistic visitors.  We very much look forward to visitors coming to try them out.  Their comments and suggestions will be sought to help us to respond to visitors’ needs.”

If you would like to borrow a backpack during your visit, just ask one of the Front of House team at the museum reception desk.

For more info on The Hunterian Museum & Art Gallery: https://www.gla.ac.uk/hunterian/  and for accessibility information: https://www.gla.ac.uk/hunterian/visit/accessibility/