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Cameron is 14 years old and has been fascinated with dinosaurs his entire life. On Sunday, Cameron and his family were on their way to the Royal Ontario Museum in Toronto for a day of learning, exploration and of course dinosaurs. Right before they arrived, Cameron had an anxiety attack.
Cameron has autism. His mom, Melanie, generally prefers at-home or quieter activities over busy, public outings like a day at the museum. If Cameron becomes overwhelmed by his surroundings, he may have a meltdown or cover his ears and yell loudly. For Melanie, that's not unusual, but with strangers surrounding them, it can be much harder to handle.
But today's adventure to the ROM is different for Cameron and his family.
Prior to their adventure, they downloaded the MagnusCards ROM Decks specifically geared to assist people with cognitive special needs be able to interact with services like the ROM.
"When we got there, Cameron was able to buy all of our tickets himself using the app. It was a really different experience than what we were used to."
The ROM is the first museum to partner with MagnusCards. MagnusCards uses digital guides (called Card Decks) and game elements to help people access their communities with greater independence. Each Card Deck uses pictures and text to provide step-by-step instructions for various social interactions, situations, behaviours, and activities. Magnus, an interactive character who acts as the user's guide, provides reassurances and reinforces routine for users exploring new environments. This is one of many accessibility initiatives the museum has implemented to make their facility more accessible and inclusive.
"My first reaction on the way home was to cry," Melanie said. "My husband asked why I was crying, and I said it was so nice to see Cam take a leadership role in a family outing. Usually he is trailing behind us, but today, he took us on a tour of the dinosaurs. It was amazing!"
But it's not always easy to take a kid with autism out into the world, especially such a bustling place like a museum. 1 in 68 people are somewhere on the autism spectrum. If a place doesn't have appropriate accommodations, museum-visits are a no-go. What seems like a fun diversion can very quickly end up causing feelings of anxiety and sometimes panic.
MagnusCards knows that not everyone craves stimulation and excitement to have a good time. Parents of children with autism find public places where they can be themselves. And they don't have to miss out on experiencing a pastime with their kids, like getting lost in the museum.
MagnusCards now has new guides for the Royal Ontario Museum in the Arts and Culture category.