The lights will be dimmed and the sound will be lowered when the Grand Rapids Children’s Museum hosts its bi-annual “Connor’s Friends: A Night for Families Affected by Autism.” Special sensory activities, art projects with the Artists Creating Together group and a music therapist will all be part of the special evening.
“Connor’s Friends gives families that may not be comfortable or able to come to the museum during our regular hours a time to come and … meet and play with other families that understand what they are going through,” said Adrienne Brown-Reasner, the museum’s director of communications and events.
When: 6-8 p.m. Nov. 8
Where: Grand Rapids Children’s Museum, 11 Sheldon Ave. NE
RSVP required: Call (616) 235-4726 ext. 204
“(It’s) a time to just let their kids be kids and not have to feel like they need to explain behaviors or put limitations on what they want to do. It’s a really beautiful experience.”
The event, which started about 11 years ago, is named for a West Michigan boy who is the grandchild of one of the museum’s volunteers. The volunteer prompted the creation of the event when she told staff she loved helping them, but her then 3-year-old grandson wasn’t able to enjoy it because it was too noisy and crowded, said Brown-Reasner.
“We realized that anyone on the autism spectrum probably felt the same,” she said. “So we partnered with area teachers, doctors, and autism experts to see what needed to be done to make the museum environment more welcoming and comfortable.” Both floors of the museum will be modified to reduce noise and visual stimulation.
To make the night less crowded, admission will be by RSVP only. Autism Support of Kent County is funding part of the event, making free admission possible. Complimentary valet parking also will be offered to parents.
The Connor’s Friends event also is held in the spring, and next year will be on May 30.