Last Wednesday due to therapist’s exams we had a rare day off from therapy. To make the most of this opportunity I this I had planned a series of activities in the morning, then lunch followed by a nice drive to designed to give me a break and encourage the two of them to have a sleep.
It was a very humid day so our first stop at Livvi’s Place was not for as long as I had planned. It was alot of fun but both of the kids just could not take the humidity. So after alittle thought I changed my plans for the morning. Instead of a morning at the park I thought it would be a good idea to go to the Powerhouse Museum. Before LittleMan’s diagnosis we were regulars at the Powerhouse Museum. We would go at least once a fortnight and more often than not it was weekly. So now that we are stating to get back more to a ‘normal’ state … I had plans on coming back to the Powerhouse. So it seemed like the perfect solution. Go to the Powerhouse and update our membership .. then a morning of fun and learning. Perfect for a hot and humid Sydney day … well that is what I thought.
LittleMan used to love the Powerhouse Museum. It was one of the LittleMan’s favourite places and for him it meant only 1 thing … Zoe’s House. I am sure in his mind the rest of the museum could be classified (apart from the trains and Thomas section) as ‘the stuff that Mum looked at while I sleep’. I remember visiting and if the first thing we did wasn’t visiting Zoe’s House I was in big trouble. He knew where it was and how to get there. Any detours where not allowed. You could see the excitement build especially when you got the floor that Zoe’s House was on and you could see the signs alone the wall. For him it was a very special place.
is was Zoe’s House?
is was an internationally renowned interactive playspace for 3-6 year olds (however smaller kids could play with parent’s close supervision). It is was an unfinished house surrounded by tools for little builders – a crane, conveyor belt, rubble chute, rail network, wheel barrows, lifts, even hard hats and jackets. (see pictures of LittleMan when he was small having fun at Zoe’s House) Kids could roll up their sleeves and get to playing with the toy bricks and work together to build Zoe’s House. It was the perfect learning and play environment. It was a true all abilities learning centre that encouraged kids to learn and work together. It was truly an amazing place .. and I am devastated that it is gone.
What replaces Zoe’s House?
Well … when I arrived at the Powerhouse Museum and after fixing up our membership (and navigating all of the construction) … I walked down to where Zoe’s House used to be. Instead of the children’s environment it had been transformed for the Lace Exhibition. What appeared to be metres and metres of lace … but no space for kids. While I was impressed … the two in the stroller were not. So after doing some wandering around I found one of the museum workers that told me about the closure of Zoe’s House (7 June 2011) 🙁 … and it being ‘replaced’ by the Wiggles exhibition. So while I was very upset about the closure of Zoe’s house … we went for a new explore down to the Wiggles to see what they had in store. I had confidence that the Powerhouse would have something that would be educational and fun for ALL children … hmmm … unfortunately I was proved wrong.
Well … it was downstairs to go and explore the Wiggles Exhibition. I understand that the aims of the exhibition, as described on the website and promotional material, was to create a safe play area for young children where they can have fun and learn at the same time. Well that might be true for typically developing kids but if you have autism or sensory processing difficulties, the Wiggles exhibition is the last place you should go. Instead of learning and fun in an inclusive environment … what we had been used to at Zoe’s House … I had a LittleMan screaming, frightened and confused. It was a very disappointing experience.
So what’s the story with the exhibition and whats wrong with it … Well the exhibition is a multimedia and high-tech interactive extravaganza broken into four different “multi-sensory experience”areas, each dedicated to one of the Wiggles. Anthony’s section has a numeracy theme and a fruit salad game. Jeff’s area takes a literacy approach and includes a interactive game to wake him up. Sam’s section has a big, red mechanical car, while Murray’s is devoted to musical concepts.
Children can sing along to ‘Fruit Salad’ while generating their own version of the breakfast food in an onscreen game; take a virtual ride in the Big Red Car; and it’s a no brainer that they’ll be able to wake up Jeff – if their little lungs can scream loud enough to trigger the volume-sensitive soundwave device. The exhibition will also feature a life-size model of Captain Feathersword’s ship, so if it takes their fancy, the little ones can join the pirate crew to hoist the sail and raise the flag (Timeout)
All sounds pretty awesome … right? Hmm … another way you can describe the exhibition is that of sensory overload. And I think that is intentional. I think the design of the exhibition is to draw the visitors into the interactive world … and one of the tools is to overcome the senses (visually and auditory) to bring the visitor into the special Wiggles World. However if you have sensory processing issues and/or sensitive to load noises or can be overloaded by visually by too many bright colours or lights .. then you will hate the exhibition. Walking around the exhibition you have children repeatedly screaming to wake up Jeff and load music bleeding from each of the sections into each other so you you just don’t know where to look or what to do … and visually it is just overwhelming. It is no wonder that LittleMan just could not take it.
(I would like to however highlight the great work by the museum staff that tried to make this as easy as possible for us to visit including allowing me to bring the pram into the exhibition. They are truely awesome. They were also very understanding when I was providing feedback on Zoe’s House. So Museum staff as always great work.)
It is really sad but on Wednesday we left the Museum with LittleMan overloaded and upset and it felt like a place that we had come to love and feel like we were part of a community that valued people of all abilities … was lost. I hope that this is only a temporary thing and that Zoe’s House WILL come back … but to be honest I do not think that even that is a good enough reason.