Making museums more inclusive for children with special needs

SINGAPORE- Professor T could not contain his excitement when he met his young audience during the GosTan Back preview performance.

But his booming welcome was a tad loud for the children, who had special needs, causing one to flinch and cover his ears.

The actor playing Professor T, Mr Julius Foo, said the small action made him realise he had to be even more attuned to the needs of the young ones watching the performance, the first production by the National Museum of Singapore to cater to children with special needs.

"I immediately adjusted my voice level to be more sensitive to them, and I think these kinds of interaction between us actors and the audience is what makes this experience so special," said Mr Foo, 52.

Suitable for all children between ages five and eight, GosTan Back was produced in partnership with local theatre company, My Super Future, and is currently in its pilot stage as a time-travel themed interactive performance through the History Gallery of the Museum.

The Gallery includes historical events from 700 years ago to the independent, modern city-state that Singapore is today.

The show includes many hands-on activities and props such as caps and lights, which the children can keep as souvenirs.

To cater to those who have special needs, the museum has recruited youth volunteers from various schools to attend specially to them.

The volunteers had special training, with role-playing, discussions and a talk jointly held by the Society for the Physically Disabled (SPD) and My Super Future, to learn basic ways of communicating with children who have different needs.

During the event, every parent-and-child pair will get a volunteer, who will have a bagful of interesting tactile objects to keep the young audience member engaged.

Parliamentary Secretary for Ministry of Culture, Community and Youth, Baey Yam Keng, who attended the preview, said: "This pilot shows people that Singapore's heritage is a part of our everyday life that can be applicable to all. Everyone owns a part of Singapore heritage. Therefore, the approach we have taken has been a very inclusive one, in terms of its outreach and programme design, so that everyone can have a slice of it."

The public can look forward to other initiatives in museums that focus on inclusiveness after the launch of the Heritage Plan in 2018.

"I feel very gratified that this event caters to special needs children as it shows that there is recognition for children of all types," said Ms Lim Hwee Hwee, whose son, Lim Jun Le, attended the preview on Thursday (May 4).

The performance is a part of the Children's Season from May 27 to June 25. It will take place on selected days from 10.30am - 12pm, at the National Museum of Singapore. More details will be released at a later date.

fxtang@sph.com.sg