Imagine spreading your blanket out on the ground, and laying down, gazing up at the sky. You gleefully point out stars that you recognize to your family and friends, chatting softly to each other. And then the music begins—it’s a patriotic tune, one that you can’t help but tap your foot to. Fireworks begin to explode….but wait! There is no crackling, booming or hissing! Instead all you hear is “ooh,” “aah,” and “wow!” coming from all around you, people laughing and cheering. The fireworks fade away, and are replaced by a set of remarkable spinning images, and you are off on a remarkable adventure.
This was the scene last night in The Neag Planetarium at the Reading Public Museum. Over 100 people turned out for The Museum’s first ever Sensory-Friendly Fireworks and Star Show, and we did not need the noise to have a blast. Designed with those who have sensory sensitivities in mind, whether they are simply young children who have not experienced many social situations, or those who have a sensory processing disorder like autism, Asperger’s, or even post-traumatic stress disorder, the show featured fireworks without the extra noise, and many other graphics and patterns that were fascinating but not over-stimulating.
Our other Sensory Morning programs run in the Reading Public Museum and feature our exhibitions like the Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles™: Secrets of the Sewer™ and the upcoming Hands-On Harley-Davidson™ in November. We turn off or lessen as much noise as we can, and dim the lights, providing a sensory break room as well. Running from 9 - 11 a.m. before The Museum opens to the public, our goal is to provide an inclusive, welcoming atmosphere for those who may need a quieter, less crowded environment to enjoy The Museum!
We had guests of all ages and abilities, from seven-month old babies to people in their seventies, and that is exactly what we hoped for! The Reading Public Museum strives to be a place of life-long learning and seeing everybody spread out all around the planetarium dome enjoying the fireworks was a pleasure to behold.
The excitement and enthusiasm about this program from the community has been infectious! We are thrilled with the response, and are hoping that we can offer a program like this again in the near future. Please keep your eyes peeled for future Sensory Events at the Reading Public Museum, we look forward to seeing you.
— Megan Weld, Museum Educator
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