Featured Certified Autism Specialist: Stephanie McMahon

Stephanie McMahon

TEA/SBEC – EC-12 SpEd; EC-12 ESL; EC-4 Generalist, CAS;
Accessibility & Inclusion Specialist

Why did you choose your profession?
My childhood passion for working with individuals with disabilities was further strengthened by giving birth to an autistic child. Her struggles in school led me to become a Special Education teacher, a career that gave me a deeper appreciation for the beauty of diversity. A series of wonderful opportunities brought me to my current profession, where I help create an accessible environment for all guests at Space Center Houston.
What’s your favorite part about what you do?
I passionately believe that STEM learning is available to everyone, and love to see the spark of excitement when a guest is inspired. However, my favorite part of what I do is when I hear from guests about how a guest-facing crew member helped them feel welcomed and valued. Then I know that I have truly helped cultivate an accessible and inclusive environment!
How has your IBCCES training/credential helped you in your career?
Beyond improving my personal interactions with our guests, my IBCCES’ training and CAS credential has helped me provide deeper dive training to crew members, and has opened doors for me to collaborate with others in the science learning and museum community. I have had the honor of presenting internationally at both the Space Exploration Educators Conference and Association of Science & Technology Centers about creating accessible and inclusive environments. I also co-founded HouMAN (Houston Museum Accessibility Network), a professional learning community focusing on making Houston an accessible destination for all visitors.
How do you use/implement what you learned in the IBCCES certification training?
The practices outlined in the IBCCES certification training are universal. By encouraging our crew members to be aware of and open to the unique needs any one of our guests might bring, we can look for opportunities to provide additional support that ensure a wonderful visit for everyone. For the autism community specifically, Space Center Houston provides sensory kits, photo/social story guides, sensory guides, quiet rooms/areas, sensory friendly days, access to both typical and special education programs, preferential seating and line access, specialized tours, and much more.
What types of future training would you be interested in? What is the biggest need for training that you see?
There is a need for a new way of providing support considering pandemic requirements. Science learning centers, museums, and attractions will need new practices not only for the COVID-19 response, but continuing on into the future.
If you’d like to create your own testimonial statement, please do so below.
Whatever the size of your sphere of influence, be that “bright light” that shows the world that living with autism can be a beautiful, positive experience. As you do, your sphere of influence will grow, and our message will change the world.

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