Families with children on the autism spectrum now have new resources for science exploration, thanks to a partnership between Explora and the New Mexico Autism Society
Hundreds of families gathered at Explora for an evening of dinner, fellowship, and shared scientific exploration. All of the families have been touched by autism, but none are letting that stop their children's ability to explore STEM (science, technology, engineering, and math) concepts, thanks to a growing partnership between Explora and the New Mexico Autism Society.
The partnership began last year when Explora hosted a community listening session with families from the New Mexico Autism Society. Staff from Explora learned a lot about the aspirations and concerns of these families and immediately recognized ways to improve access to science-rich learning experiences.
Kristin Leigh, Deputy Director and Director of Community Engagement at Explora, began working closely with Sarah Baca, Executive Director of the New Mexico Autism Society on the co-development of new resources for families. "Explora is committed to working with partners to make a difference for families in New Mexico, and we're passionate about improving our accessibility to better serve our diverse community," Leigh said.
Explora now offers a variety of tools that can be checked out at its front desk. Soon, these materials will be available on Explora's website, as well. Two of the new resources are social stories and visual schedules. Social stories help children have positive social interactions by describing situations ahead of time with relevant social cues, others' perspectives, and suggested responses. Families can use Explora's template and photos to set expectations for their visit. Similarly, visual schedules use photos of Explora's exhibits to tell children what activities will occur during a visit and in what order, adding structure to what could be a very open-ended day.
The materials were prototyped by families from the New Mexico Autism Society at a recent Family Science Night at Explora. Both the social stories and visual schedules, in addition to visual timers and, soon, noise-cancelling headphones, can be checked out at Explora's front desk for use during a family's visit.
This is just another step in an ongoing partnership to expand access and opportunity for children and families affected by autism. Families affiliated with the Autism Society receive no-cost family memberships to Explora as part of Explora's Community Partnership Membership Program, and Explora will support the New Mexico Autism Society at their 5K race and Autism Fair on April 11, 2015. "There is nothing more exciting than seeing such a popular attraction in Albuquerque making accommodations for the autism community," says Sarah Baca. "We are hopeful that not only the autism community will find these beneficial but the entire disability communities will, as well. This is a fine example of turning awareness into action, which we hope will lead to acceptance!"
Explora is an experiential learning center located at 1701 Mountain Road, NW in Old Town Albuquerque. It welcomes visitors of all ages to explore more than 250 hands-on exhibits in science, technology, and art. For information about Explora call 224-8323 or go to www.explora.us.
About New Mexico Autism Society
The New Mexico Autism Society is dedicated to improving the lives of all affected by autism in NM. They strive to create a community of acceptance, support and connection and offer social outings, support group meetings, adult meet ups and resources to those affected by autism and their families. For more information about The New Mexico Autism Society call 332-0306 or go to