Parents with children on the autism spectrum or individuals with sensory sensitivities often find choosing destinations and attractions to visit a challenge – The Children’s Museum of Houston is working to ensure this is not the case when guests visit its location. The Museum was recently designated a Certified Autism Center, which is awarded by the International Board of Credentialing and Continuing Education Standards (IBCCES) and demonstrates a commitment to ongoing training and a formal certification process in order to better serve individuals on the autism spectrum.
“The Children’s Museum of Houston’s vision is to spark a passion for lifelong learning in all children. We know every child is unique in their learning styles and have always strived to be an institution of inclusion. As a result, the Children’s Museum of Houston has created an environment which allows all children to discover their interest and engage in developmentally appropriate play. That philosophy influences our physical environment, attitudes, expectations and opportunities for all children, regardless of disability,” said Vandolyn Esparza, Alexander Specialist for Early Literacy and Special Learning Needs at Children’s Museum of Houston.
For almost 20 years, IBCCES has been the industry leader in autism training for licensed healthcare professionals and educators around the globe. IBCCES recognized that many families with children who have special needs have limited options when looking for attractions and new experiences that can also understand and respond to their needs. In response, IBCCES created training and certification programs specifically for organizations such as resorts, museums, zoos, and others in the travel and tourism industry.
“We know that training and certification are critical to ensuring organizations can truly understand and accommodate guests of ALL needs. We’re so proud to work with the Children’s Museum of Houston to continue the amazing work they’ve been doing to welcome all visitors and make it an unforgettable experience,” said Myron Pincomb, IBCCES Board Chairman.
While many destinations promote “autism-friendly” options, this does not always indicate a true understanding of families’ needs. Families and individuals with sensory sensitivities are now seeking out organizations that have completed training programs and undergone professional review to give them peace of mind when visiting these organizations for the first time.
In addition to the training and certification process through IBCCES, the Children’s Museum of Houston hosts sensory-friendly days, as well as “Explore Abilities” days for guests, which include modifications such as light and sound reduction, smaller crowds, quiet areas, ear defenders available for loan, special activities, and the ability for visitors to bring in their own food. The Museum has also partnered with ReelAbilities: Houston Film Festival, a free citywide film and arts festival which promotes inclusion and celebrates the lives, stories, and talents of people with disabilities making an impact that lasts far beyond the week of the festival for the past five years. The Museum’s Social Story provides children with an understanding of what they can experience and how to respond or behave when visiting the Museum and there is a page dedicated to each exhibit so that parents can tailor the story to meet the needs of their child’s interests.
Esparza and other educators also attend stakeholder meetings with local school districts and agencies to further the mission of the Museum to “transform communities through innovative child-centered learning” and the Museum’s strategic objectives to design for innovation, personalize the learning, and exceed expectations related impacts and partnerships regarding early literacy development and the unique needs of children who have learning disabilities.
IBCCES also created AutismTravel.com, a free online resource for parents that lists certified destinations and connects families to other travel resources and each other. Each destination and attraction listed on the site has met Certified Autism Center (CAC) requirements.
About Children’s Museum of Houston
“America’s No. 1 Children’s Museum” by Parents Magazine, listed among Forbes, LA Times and USA Today’s “Best Children’s Museums in the U.S.,” winner of Houston A-List “Best Museum,” Kids Out and About “Top 20 Places to Take Kids in Houston,” The Culture Trip’s “Top Local Favorite” and one of “Houston’s Must See Museums” by Travel Channel, the Children’s Museum of Houston is a Playground for Your Mind™. It is dedicated to transforming communities through innovative, child-centered learning with a vision to spark a passion for lifelong learning in all children. Founded in 1980 and housed in a whimsical building designed by internationally acclaimed architect Robert Venturi, the Children’s Museum of Houston offers a multitude of innovative exhibits and bilingual learning programs for kids ages birth to 12 years. The Museum serves more than 1,100,000 people annually and operates as a 501(c)(3) under the direction of a Board of Directors. For more information, please visit www.cmhouston.org or call (713) 522-1138. Can your mind come out to play?™