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This article was published 10/8/2017 (311 days ago), so information in it may no longer be current.
A place with bright lights, loud noises and permission to run amok is usually a safe bet for keeping a kid happy for a few hours, unless that kid has sensory processing disorder.
For those kids, it can leave them overwhelmed and leave their parents sifting through a smaller pool of activities, especially in summer.
It’s a problem that organizers of Explore-Abilities Morning at the Children’s Museum of Manitoba are looking to help solve.
On Saturday morning at 8 a.m., the museum’s lights and sounds will dim, signage will be added and a 100-person capacity limit will ensure that kids with the disorder have a nice, quiet time.
Sensory processing disorder is associated with autism spectrum disorder, a lifelong condition that one in 68 Canadian children are currently diagnosed with, according to Autism Speaks Canada.
"We’ve had children (at the event) who get diagnosed with autism and have never met another child with autism before," said Erin McIntyre, director of education and exhibits at the Children’s Museum. "Then they come to this event and they are able to connect with other families and start to develop some support for themselves."
The museum held its pilot event in 2015. The following year they held two, and Saturday’s event will be the second of three in 2017.
While McIntyre said the museum will continue to keep up with demand, she said some kids at the first events have since ventured into the museum during regular hours.
"They came when the supports were in place and now they feel confident that they can come any time."
Kids with sensory processing disorder and autism can and do enjoy the museum during regular hours, McIntyre said, adding staff are fully trained and offer free earplugs and sunglasses.
Michael Wilwand can’t make it on Saturday but was thrilled to hear about a possible new activity for his four autistic children.
Wilwand is the co-founder of Parents of Autistic Children Everywhere, a support group for families affected by autism that he started due to a perceived lack of resources.
"During the summertime, it’s mostly two or one week programs (for kids with autism), and that’s basically it," Wilwand said.
"Then you have to find out, ‘OK, what am I going to do with my child this week and that week’, and try to fill the void, especially if you’re a single parent working."
A few years ago, Wilwand made the decision to become a stay-at-home dad.
"A lot of parents of kids with autism are single-income families because one parent has to stay home, or they’re broken families because one parent can’t handle it."
PACE is open to autistic kids, adults and their families, who meet weekly to learn how to navigate school, jobs, relationships and to just hang out. The non-profit is now fundraising to purchase curriculum packages for the group.