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Autism Events and Resources from NASA's Space Center Houston

Science is one of my favorite subjects that I tutor for my students with autism, so I was so excited when I had the opportunity to visit NASA's Space Center in Houston this past summer. I had a fantastic visit, and learned just a little bit about the resources they have to make the center more welcoming and friendly to families of children with autism. I recently had the opportunity to get more details about all of the amazing events and resources that the center has. Check out the list below if you're interested in visiting the center or to get ideas for how to help your child visiting similar museums and centers.

The Space Center has a variety of programs/resources for autism. Each is described in more detail and linked to the Space Center's website below. Many thanks to the Space Center's accessibility and inclusion coordinator, Stephanie McMahon, for sharing these resources with me.

  • Certified Autism Center

  • Sensory Friendly Events

  • Day Camps

  • Sensory Guides for Many Exhibits

  • Social Narrative

  • Photo Flashcards for Vocabulary or Making a Picture Schedule

  • Sensory Backpacks

Any descriptions and comments below are my own (based on information on the center's website), and are not endorsed by the Space Center. Links are provided to the resources on their website to their official resources and info.

Certified Autism Center

In June of 2018, the Space Center announced that the facility had received the "Certified Autism Center" designation from the International Board of Credentialing and Continuing Education. The certification process includes staff training and accommodations that make the center more welcoming and accessible. More information is available on this press release.

Sensory Friendly Events

On selected dates, the center opens early or late with a "reduced sensory environment" that includes modified lighting, music, and sound on the exhibits. There will also be educational activities facilitated by trained staff. The next event happens on April 6, 2019. More information is here.

Day Camps

The Space Center offers day camps during spring break, summer, and fall/winter holidays. The camps are designed for children ages 11-18 and include activities on robotics, space, technology, engineering, and math. The center can provide reasonable accommodations to help your child have a successful camp experience. More info is on this webpage.

Sensory Guides for Many Exhibits

Each sensory guide includes a brief description of the activity or exhibit as well as a rating of the "sensory level" for the activity for:

  • touch (such as sitting close to other people or sitting in an enclosed area),

  • taste (not applicable for many activities),

  • sound (such as use of microphones/loudspeaker or sound effects),

  • smell (not applicable for many activities), and

  • sight (such as bright or flashing lights)

These guides can help you decide which activities you might want to visit with your child. You can find all of the guides on this website under the section labeled, "Accessibility Resources."

Social Narrative

A story with words and photos that describes what you'll experience on the visit to help children be prepared for what will happen. It tells about:

  • the entrance process, such as waiting in line and going through the security checkpoint,

  • simple rules to follow at the center,

  • information about the exhibits at the space center, and

  • fun facts about astronomy, NASA, and the space center.

You can access the story here.

Photo Flashcards for Vocabulary or Making a Picture Schedule

The center offers two sets of photo cards in two different sizes. Both sets include a photo of each exhibit along with a text label of the exhibit name. You could use these as flashcards to help your child learn the names of the exhibits and/or making a picture schedule of the order in which you'll visit the exhibits. You can find both sets of flash cards on this website under the section labeled, "Accessibility Resources."

Sensory Backpacks

You can check out a "sensory backpack" at the Guest Services Desk at the center. The backpacks contain sunglasses, sound-reduction headphones, books, fidgets, and guides.

Homeschool Days

Just as an added note, they also have homeschool days! The next homeschool day is February 19, 2019.

For more information on all of the center's accessibility options and resource, please visit their website.

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