Survey Your Audience
Survey your visitors to learn how the museum can better serve children with special needs and their families. Keep in mind that an internal survey will give you a good idea of the needs of your current audience, but it will not provide insight into the desires of parents of special needs children who are not accessing your museum.
Utilize State and National Resources
All states have a University Center for Excellence in Developmental Disabilities, a network of interdisciplinary centers advancing policy and practice for and with individuals with developmental and other disabilities, their families and communities.
All states also have offices that work to promote the interests and rights of individuals with developmental disabilities.
Local chapters of The Arc, which advocate for the rights and full participation of all children and adults with intellectual and developmental disabilities-www.thearc.org-can likely provide information on local needs.
Some national websites may be helpful for statistics, research, information about specific disabilities and links to other resources:
- www.kidscount.org - The Annie E. Casey Foundation's data center on child well being
- www.nichcy.org - National Dissemination Center on Children with Disabilities
- www.aap.org - the American Academy of Pediatrics
- www.aota.org - American Occupational Therapy Association
- www.apta.org - American Physical Therapy Association
- www.asha.org - American Speech-Language-Hearing Association
- www.autismspeaks.org - Autism Speaks
- www.nads.org - National Association for Down Syndrome
- www.ucp.org - United Cerebral Palsy
- www.specialolympics.org - Special Olympics
- www.naccrra.org - the National Association of Childcare Resource and Referral Agencies
The following tips will help you get a better understanding of children with special needs and their families in your community that your museum may not be serving.
- Participate in trainings and roundtable discussions with organizations offering services to families with children with special needs. If none are offered in your area, create your own roundtable or advisory committee and invite the leaders from those organizations to participate.
- The following site provides specific information for conducting a focus group: http://www.cse.lehigh.edu/~glennb/mm/Focus
- Encourage all levels of museum staff to seek out and serve on community committees, organizations, and boards.
- Contact local community organizations that serve families with children with special needs and ask if you can survey their constituents or if they would be willing to share/swap information. You can offer an incentive - a free or discount admission ticket for each family who completes the survey. Places you may want to consider contacting include:
- Caregiver Groups in your area
- Scout troops / Churches
- Public libraries
- Support groups
- Parks and Recreation Departments