Belfast Telegraph

Boy with autism inspires new museum project after spacecraft launch

Tim Peake
Tim Peake
Hayden Geraghty with Tim Peake’s spacecraft at the Ulster Transport Museum
Donna Deeney

By Donna Deeney

A young boy with autism whose first words were the countdown to the launch of Tim Peake's spacecraft in 2015 has inspired a new museum project.

Hayden Geraghty was the inspiration for the Ulster Transport Museum to hold a quiet session tomorrow so other autistic children can come and see the capsule.

The nine-year-old from Limavady had been non-verbal until he watched the launch of Soyuz TMA-19M, which transported British astronaut Peake to the International Space Station (ISS).

Hayden joined in the countdown and it was the first time his mother Caroline heard her son's voice.

Hayden's passion for all things galactic is now well-known, so when Peake's spacecraft came to the Ulster Transport Museum he was invited along.

However Hayden, who has sensory issues as part of his autism, struggled with the noise from the crowds attending the exhibition.

The museum took this on board and, inspired by Hayden, has introduced a quiet session so other children with autism don't have to miss out on seeing the fascinating exhibition.

The youngster's mother Caroline said it was important that children with autism are able to enjoy the same things as children who do not have sensory issues.

She said: "Hayden was non-verbal until the day of the launch of Tim Peake's spacecraft, then out of the blue he said 'five, four, three, two, one'. I couldn't believe it, these were the first words I heard my son say.

"Hayden has always been passionate about space so perhaps it wasn't surprising that this was the breakthrough to his speaking we had been waiting so long for, and since then he has come so far.

"When we were invited to the museum to see Tim Peake's spacecraft there were so many other people there too and the noise was just too much for Hayden."

Hayden was able to explain to the museum how too much noise is a struggle for many people with autism.

His mum added: "The museum was keen that no one would miss out on the chance to see the spacecraft.

"Having quiet sessions is so important and it is great that more and more businesses and event organisers are recognising the needs of people with autism and putting on quiet sessions."

The museum is hosting the 'quiet sessions', which offer a more gentle atmosphere and are developed to cater for visitors with sensory needs, tomorrow from 9am to 10am.

Another quiet session will be held before the exhibition closes on Sunday, May 5.

Peake's spacecraft will remain on display at the museum until Sunday, May 12 and is free to visit.

Quiet sessions are free, although pre-booking is advised. Book by calling on 028 9039 5091 or email soyuz@nmni.com.

For more information about the exhibition visit www.nmni.com/soyuz.

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