Making museums more inclusive for kids with special needs

Children walking past Professor T, played by actor Julius Foo. The GosTan Back performance was designed to cater to all children, including those with special needs, at the National Museum of Singapore yesterday.
Children walking past Professor T, played by actor Julius Foo. The GosTan Back performance was designed to cater to all children, including those with special needs, at the National Museum of Singapore yesterday.ST PHOTO: SEAH KWANG PENG

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 yesterday, 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 are 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 show includes many hands-on activities and props such as caps and lights, which the children can keep as souvenirs.During the event, every parent and child pair will get a specially trained 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, Mr 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."

Freelance translator Lim Hwee Hwee, whose son Lim Jun Le, 10, enjoyed the preview, said: "I feel very gratified that this event caters to special-needs children as it shows that there is recognition for children of all types." 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 to 12pm, at the National Museum of Singapore. More details will be released at a later date.

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on May 05, 2017, with the headline 'Making museums more inclusive for kids with special needs'. Print Edition | Subscribe