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Monday, January 29, 2018

Many Museums - Including The Smithsonian - Offer Special Hours For Kids With Autism

In 2011, The Smithsonian complex of museums began opening its doors 90 minutes early for children on the autism spectrum and their families. Groups are kept small and structured (so that while the museum exhibits can change, the structure of the program remains the same - small group activities, demonstrations, etc.). Lights are slightly dimmed, and sound is turned off on many interactive exhibits that feature a noise component. With smaller groups, there are not bustling crowds to navigate and no uncomfortable waiting in lines. 

The program also provides a visual storyboard of the schedule, a tip sheet with parking, restroom maps and basic sensory information for parents. They also set up a break space on the concourse level filled with large mats, pillows and sensory toys like fidgets and stress balls.

The program has been an unqualified success. and museums around the country have followed suit, offering special sensory evenings and mornings throughout the year. Big name museums like The American Museum of Natural History and The Intrepid Air & Space Museum in Manhattan, The Please Touch Museum of Philadelphia, and the Walters Art Museum in Baltimore  are only a few of the many great museums to offer a full range of sensory-friendly and special accommodation programs for those with special needs.

If you have a local museum you've been meaning to visit but were unsure if your child can be comfortable there, give them a call or check out their website - you may find a program that will make your experience a great time for the whole family!

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