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Academy Of Natural Sciences Launches Effort To Be More Welcoming To Autistic Children

By Mike DeNardo

PHILADELPHIA (CBS) – The Academy of Natural Sciences has launched an effort to make museum visits more welcoming to children with autism.

A child on the autism spectrum may find the unfamiliar sounds at the Academy of Natural Sciences’ live animal exhibit disturbing.

“Those big skeletons can be frightening,” says ANSP Director of Education Timshel Purdum. “Things that you might have to wear if you want to go in our dinosaur dig, for instance, you have to wear goggles for safety.  And you need to think about whether you can have those on your face or not.  You might not like that.  So you might say ‘I don’t want to do that today.”

Purdum says the Academy now has an online initiative to help those on the spectrum become accustomed to sensory experiences in the museum before they visit.

“You might feel this way when you go into Butterflies, because it’s hotter. You have to go through a curtain that might touch you. Our dinosaur hall has a very loud Time Machine experience.”

Purdum says as the program evolves, the museum may offer sensory kits containing headphones or calming weighted vests to help make the visit stress-free.

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