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A Gateway to Inclusion: Understanding the Structure of Autism Early Open Events in Museums

Thesis by Catherine J. Salthouse (2017)

The autism population is growing in the United States. Museums can be a resource to families with children with autism by hosting low-stimuli early open or late open events. The purpose of this research is to richly describe and examine the nature of museum-based autism events. Using a case study design, document analysis and semi-structured interviews were conducted at three science-based museum sites on the west coast, gulf coast, and east coast. Results of this study show three distinct staff structures, varying levels of staff accessibility training, and different engagement strategies across sites. Common to all was the tendency to dismiss the effort necessary to get buy-in from all museum departments, the need for funding, and the idea of an advocate or champion within the museum to make an event possible. Perhaps due to the idea of an advocate, museum staff did not think of other participating groups as partners. The implications of this study suggest the resources needed for these events can vary according to the needs and capacity of institutions.

Keywords: Class of 2017, museum, museum studies, museology, research, autism, ASD, case study, programs


Salthouse, C., & Luke, Jessica J. (2017). Gateway to inclusion : Understanding the structure of early open autism events in museums. [University of Washington Libraries].