They come cautiously, uncertain—both children and adults. The step through the double glass doors is a big one. For just an instant they think about turning back. But they have talked about this for weeks, actually months, and tonight is the night. They are coming to the Golisano Children’s Museum of Naples (C’mon) to experience Sensory Night.
Sensory Night is a carefully crafted monthly experience for small groups of children on the Autism spectrum and/or with other sensory integration disorders. After-hours (5-7 pm on the fourth Tuesday of every month), the loud music is turned off, and other sensory distractions minimized (electric hand dryers in the restroom are turned off along with strobe lights in the exhibits).
This is a safe haven for the children and their parents. Parents do not have to struggle with the social reaction that may come from their child’s emotional outbursts or aloofness. The other parents already understand. For the first time in a long time, the parents let their guard down, and enjoy the discoveries made by their children.
Month after month they visit C’mon and soon the group is an extension of their family, the adults have developed a cherished
support group. They share play dates and holidays. As time goes on, the children are comfortable in this new environment. The teachers are now their friends and they proudly high five them as they walk in the door. Eventually they become brave and are willing to try to visit C’mon at another time—Members Only Hour. And for a few participants, they make it all the way and attend the Museum during regular hours.
This story, based on fact not fiction, is repeated over and over. The learned acceptance in the Sensory Night environment encourages the children (up to age 18) to expand their social skills. Not only do they learn how to interact comfortably with adults including teachers and other parents, but they make new friends who are “just like them.” Building friendships can be very difficult for children with special needs. But C’mon’s Sensory Night breaks down barriers of social judgement, ability level divisions, and traditional teaching techniques to make learning and socializing easy and comfortable for the participants.
To learn more and hear one parent’s first-hand experience, visit: www.cmon.org/sensory-night/ and watch the video. Sensory Night meets participants at their own level, then presents them with new learning opportunities that help them grow and succeed. Lessons and experiences are created that test their senses, especially smell and touch. Thanks to funding from an anonymous donor, admission for Sensory Nights is only $5 per person. Accessibility for all is a serious commitment at C’mon.