Sponsored in 2018 and 2019 by Paessler AG, the global network management specialist, the award-wining Relaxed Opening sessions provide a calm environment for families who often find the crowds and noise of public attractions too stressful for some family members.
Launched in 2017, the Relaxed Opening sessions give youngsters with autism special quiet-time access to explore the museum. The visitors know in advance that the Museum will be less busy and will be staffed by volunteers trained to be alert to their needs. Alongside other families with autistic children, they know they will be free from the usual pressures of public situations.
Anne-Marie Sandos, head of learning at TNMOC, said, “We look forward to our relaxed opening sessions and are very grateful for the support of Paessler AG which has enabled us to train our staff and volunteers for the sessions which are free to visitors. Word of these sessions is very quickly getting around and our first two sessions of the eight sessions if the year were booked up well in advance. That tells us how successful they are and that they are meeting a very real need.”
The response of parents has been overwhelmingly positive. “The kids felt very comfortable and had a great time”, said one mother, echoing the thoughts of others. “The staff were incredibly informative and very engaging with the children. We had a fantastic morning at the Museum.”
“This is such a change for me,” said another parent watching her son engrossed studying a computer. “Usually my son has a very short attention span, but just look at his concentration and focus now!”
Vintage computer games are of course a favourite with the young people, and many were fascinated to be able to switch on the famous reconstructed Bombe to see and hear the dials whirr into action.
Peter Hoath, an experienced volunteer museum guide, explained how highly the sessions are valued by staff and volunteers, “I make a special effort to attend the Relaxed Opening sessions because I find them so positive and rewarding. We treat every visitor as an individual and discover their abilities, which can vary enormously. Sometimes their questions are very basic – at other times they expose the outer limits of my knowledge!”
Natalie Pratt, marketing manager at Paessler AG, said, “The National Museum of Computing is an important technological heritage site. At Paessler we understand the value of technology and believe everyone should have the opportunity to see how it has developed over the years. Contributing to the Relaxed Openings ensures families of autistic children can explore the museum at their own pace, without distraction, thus minimising the stress of these families. We are pleased to hear they’re doing so well and are happy to have facilitated the events.”
The Relaxed Opening sessions are free, thanks to sponsorship from Paessler AG, and are open to anyone who registers. They usually run on specific Monday mornings during school holidays. Pre-registration, which is free, is essential so that numbers of numbers can be kept to a comfortable level for all visitors. For full details and booking, see www.tnmoc.org/relaxed-opening
To help visitors, sensory maps and a visual story are available on the TNMOC website so that they can know exactly what unusual sounds and sights to expect in particular parts of the Museum.