Queens Museum's Autism Education Program Expands to Spain

By Katie Honan on January 28, 2014 10:19am 

 The program at the Queens Museum is teaming up to help establish a similar one in Madrid.
The program at the Queens Museum is teaming up to help establish a similar one in Madrid.
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Courtesy Queens Museum

CORONA — A Queens group that works with the parents of autistic children is reaching out across the Atlantic to help set up a similar program in Spain, using the Internet and a federal grant.

The ArtAccess program at the Queens Museum has teamed up with Museo ICO in Madrid, Spain to create "emPOWER Parents: Fostering Cross Cultural Networks between Families with Autism."

The collaboration is funded through a nearly $73,000 grant awarded in July by the State Department and the American Alliance for Museums, and is meant to create a "cross-cultural exchange that brings people, especially youth, together to open a dialogue," according to the AAM.

The Queens program was one of 11 museums that received the award, part of which will help defer travel costs for the program's organizers.

This program will create a support network for parents of children with autism, helping them find ways to request improved programming at schools and include their children in community programs, according to the program's manager, Michelle Lopez.

"We applied together so they can create a space for these families who don't have a community for their children with autism," she said of the collaboration.

The groups have held joint sessions — using Skype to connect with the class in Madrid — and are sharing their artwork and programs.

The classes in Queens are taught by the parents of the program's eight children, with the assistance of staff, Lopez said. The group in Madrid, comprised of the parents of six kids, has started the practice as well.

"Parents have taken initiative — they're driving this program," she said.

"Parents are sharing videos and photos and creative interventions from their sessions" with the families in Madrid, helping them find different ways to connect.

The idea behind having the parents teach, with guidance from staffers, is that it will make what is learned more robust and sustainable in the community.

The program — which is closed for enrollment and whose participants were chosen from among active members — meets at the museum once a month, and will run until June, according to Lopez.

The next program will be held on Saturday, Feb. 8 starting at 11 a.m.

For more information, visit the Queens Museum's website.

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