Frog & Ted follow Les Soeurs Lampions

an A-typical visit to the museum

a clown waves a blue flag in the Louvre museum

Last weekend at the highly frequented Louvre Museum, Persil and Katoushka a.k.a. the Lampion Sisters greeted families in an oasis of calm. The quiet space in the group reception area, accueil des groupes, is part of an ongoing renovation reserved for tours, conferences and workshops. Young (and some not so young) visitors with intellectual and developmental disabilities (IDD) as well as their siblings and parents gathered for one of three sensory-inclusive autism-friendly events during the 2020 edition of Accessibility Week.

Relax! Who said you can’t clown around in front of a masterpiece?

two clownsLes Soeurs Lampions are not really sisters but a clown/mime duo composed of an occupational therapist, Catherine Tharreau, who is also a mime and actress Jenni Cat who plays the clown. The pair began performing for non-verbal neurodiverse audiences ten years ago using an augmentative and alternative communication (AAC) method called Makaton. It was their first time guiding a visit in the Louvre and for many of the spectators it was the first visit to an art museum as a family.

pre-visit social guide to the Louvre MuseumOne week prior to the event, each family received a pre-visit social guide from the Louvre. Social stories were created by an American teacher, Carol Gray, in 1990 to help her autistic students with social interaction. They are short descriptions of a particular situation, event or activity. Derivatives of social stories (social narratives, social guides) are now being used by cultural institutions to prepare individuals with autism spectrum conditions for general public events. Translated to scénario social in French they inform individuals on what to expect. The event took place in the Cour Marly au Musée du Louvre in Paris. Photographs of the six main sculptures that would be viewed were captioned with Makaton symbols in another document to further prepare visitors.

makaton guide to museum visitMakaton combines symbols, hand gestures and speech in spoken word order. The signing is different from sign language used by the deaf community. It is designed for people who can hear but are non-verbal or whose speech is unclear. Using symbols helps people who have limited speech and those who cannot, or prefer not to sign. Makaton originated in the UK and was adapted for France by AAD Makaton. I am not aware of how many people in the French autism community use this method as opposed to other ACC methods such as PECS. My adult son has never had any experience with Makaton but that did not stop him from enjoying this visit and engaging with Persil and Katoushka as well as the group.

Non-verbal doesn’t mean I have nothing to say,

it means you have to listen with more than your ears

Visibly at ease, the Soeurs Lampions welcomed each person on a first name basis setting the tone for a relaxed atmosphere. We were invited into one of the rooms that serves for such occasions and a short multi-sensory presentation began. At once poetic and theatrical, the duo awakened our senses to inform our journey to the mythological world of Olympian gods whom the marble statues depict. Before embarking on our literal journey from the room to the Cour Marly they also explained that the sculptures were originally in the Chateau de Marly gardens during the reign of King Louis XIV. Rather than a lesson in art history, it was more like setting the stage for what we were about to see.

Moving from one space in the vast Louvre museum to another can be tricky even without the weekend crowds. Persil led the way with a very large blue flag that later served as a visual prop in the Cour Marly. In front of the statues, they engaged each individual by appealing to our senses. Various scents and sounds evoked certain aspects of the statues and elicited spontaneous responses. While Persil played an instrument to call attention to the birds in a sculpture, my son unexpectedly started singing. She approached him swaying in rhythm to the song and a duet was improvised. relaxed performance at the louvre museumThis was just one of the many touching moments as the Soeurs Lampions reached out in a way that the spectators were individual participants in a collective experience.

It was an hour of pure pleasure shared as evidenced by the smiles and laughs as well as the thoughtful comments by the families present. The positive feedback was confirmed by museum professionals, testimony at the round table discussions during Accessibility Week  and on social media. To leave comments or keep apprised of future relaxed performances/sensory and autism-friendly cultural events follow Frog & Ted and Les Soeurs Lampions. My son is a man of few words but Persil agreed to this selfie proof that a picture and a gesture are worth a thousand words.


Autism- Friendly Louvre en Tête

Imagine attending the blockbuster exhibition Leonardo da Vinci lead by its curator while the museum is closed to the general public! Whether you call it relaxed, sensory inclusive, or autism-friendly, putting that word in front of the Louvre may seem like an oxymoron. Continue reading

Non-verbal: The Sound of Charlie Chaplin

charlie chaplin homme orchestreBarely five years since it opened the Philharmonie de Paris is already a famous complex of concert halls hosting over 500 performances of world renowned musicians. It also houses a temporary exhibition space Continue reading

Hors Normes: a French film outside the norm

autistic teen leaves vehicle with his two aides

Marco Locatelli plays Valentin, a non-verbal autistic teen in “Hors Normes”. photo © Carole Bethuel

Autism is one word trying to describe a million stories. Hors Normes is one film that tells some of those stories surrounding autism in France.

autistic girl ice-skating with the help of two aides

Aides ice-skate with an autistic girl in a scene from “Hors Normes” photo © Carole Bethuel

Hors Normes is neither documentary nor fiction, both comedy and tragedy. Like its characters, Hors Normes doesn’t fit nicely into any category. Continue reading

An Autism-Friendly Evening of Song in Paris


Les Concerts de la Rue Bayard presents two exceptional American artists: soprano Lauren Libaw with composer and pianist Daniel Schlosberg. The program features the premiere of a newly commissioned song cycle by Daniel Schlosberg on poems by Lydia Davis. The concert includes songs by Charles Ives, Stephen Foster as well as favorites from the Disney Songbook (Pinocchio, Sleeping Beauty, Pocahontas, Anastasia) and selections from musicals (music by Sondheim, Herman, Tesori, Yeston…) Everyone is welcome to attend this inclusive sensory and autism-friendly event meaning people with autism and all other disabilities are welcomed and accommodated. Entry is free at the Paul Snelgrove Concert series but they do request an optional/discretionary contribution to costs. Reservations : 06 07 94 50 97 E-mail :

What: The Paul Snelgrove Concert Series Autism-Friendly Evening of Song
When: Saturday March 23, 2019 at 7pm-8pm
Where: Scots Kirk, 17 rue Bayard, 75008 Paris

The artists/interpreters

Soprano Lauren Libaw has been praised for her sparkling, “bright-toned” voice (New Soprano Lauren LibawYork Times) as well as her “warmth of tone and intensity of expression” (The New Yorker). She is a graduate of Yale University and the Royal College of Music, London. Lauren made her debut at the Palais de Beaux Arts, Brussels as the Angel (Jephtha) and has since sung in venues including the Opéra Royal de Versailles, Théâtre des Champs-Élysées, Royal Albert Hall Elgar Room, the National Gallery London, and Handel House. To learn more, visit her website by clicking on the photo.

composer and pianist Daniel SchlosbergThe music of composer and pianist Daniel Schlosberg has been performed around the world by renowned artists in prestigious venues. He continues to perform and co-founded the composer-performer ensemble Invisible Anatomy. Daniel serves as co-Music-Director of Heartbeat Opera, and is a core member of the chamber ensemble Cantata Profana. He holds a BA from Yale College, MM, MMA, and DMA from the Yale School of Music. His work has been described as “richly detailed yet delicate” by The New York Times and “witty” and “ingenious” by The Wall Street Journal. Click on his photo.

The venue

The Scots Kirk is the only English speaking Presbyterian church in France. The international congregation is part of Church of Scotland. While they host the Paul Snelgrove “rue Bayard” Concert Series, the concerts themselves have no religious affiliation. Artists enjoy performing in the church which has a reputation as a special place to perform. Mr. Snelgrove is also a musician and organises the performances. More details about the concerts can be found on the Paul Snelgrove Concert Series Facebook page. Scots Kirk is wheelchair accessible. The atmosphere is more relaxed than a traditional concert hall whose social codes may be challenging for people with autism.


Lauren Libaw shared her childhood story of when, as a member of the Los Angeles Children’s Chorus, she sang with Los Angeles Opera. On the gala evening one of the sponsors sat front and center with her son, who is on the autism spectrum. He was a great fan and would jump up from his seat applauding. She recalls that at several performances his “difference” was embraced by everyone. Lauren longed to repeat this experience and share her voice with more music lovers with disabilities in France. She made arrangements with Paul Snelgrove to hold a concert when her friend Daniel Schlosberg would be in Paris. Paul Snelgrove, who is a native of England, went to great lengths to research autism-friendly, sensory-inclusive and relaxed performances which are current in Great Britain and the United States. The acoustics of the small space will be reassuring to those with hypersensitivities. The soft lights will be left on. Seating will be arranged to allow for freedom of movement (stimming allowed!). People may enter and leave as they wish and a “chill space” is available for those who need it as well as restrooms. Program and pre-visit social guide will be provided on request or see below. Hope to see you there!

Access: Bus 42 Montaigne- François 1re; 2 minute walk  Métro Franklin D. Roosevelt (Line 1 or 9; 4 minutes walk) Champs-Elysées-Clemenceau (Line 1 or 13; 7 minutes walk) or Alma Marceau(Line 9; 7 minutes walk)

Bilingual Social Narrative

This slideshow requires JavaScript.

Frog & Teddy Bear

toy bears sit in the seat of a theaterIt looked like a Bach to Baby concert. Onstage, a flutist accompanied a storyteller in captivating Continue reading

Frog & Princess at the Opéra Comique

Statues of Manon and Carmen on each side of the grand staircase in Boieldieu lobby at the Opera ComiqueOnce upon a time there was a princess. Like most fairy tale princesses, she was born in a castle to a king and a queen and falls victim to an evil curse. In The Light Princess, a 19th century story by George MacDonald, the spell Continue reading

Proust, Love and Autism

Book Cover Kids Like UsMartin is a kid like my kids. His mother is American, his father French and he is bilingual. Like my kids, Martin loves French food, art, and books. My son will obsessively read the same book over and over Continue reading