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Erin Salthouse Masters Thesis Abstract


Understanding the Structure of Autism Early Open Events in Museums

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. A document analysis and semi-structured interviews with 3-4 museum staff involved in a museum-based autism event, 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 a champion within the museum to make an event possible. Perhaps due to the idea of a champion, museum staff did not think of other participating groups as partners.

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