Monday, August 15, 2011

All Aboard! Trains and ASD (Kate Altman, M.S.)

Until I began working with children on the autism spectrum, I did not even know that my city's transit system, Septa, had its own museum.  As child after child told me about this museum through the years, I started to wonder what percentage of its visitors are on the spectrum.  Apparently, a great deal.

According to this New York Times article, children with ASDs' overwhelming interest NYC's New York Transit Museum have prompted the museum staff to create special programs for kids on the spectrum.  Their program, Subway Sleuths for 9- and 10-year-olds, has become so popular that the museum staff have decided to expand it starting in the fall.

Many children with ASD find transportation--particularly trains--fascinating and soothing.  Train, subway and bus schedules and maps are complicated and full of detail, but the trains/subways/buses themselves are (usually) predictable and reassuring.  In my experience, I have found that so many children on the spectrum have a special interest in trains that I often have to explain to people that many individuals with ASD have special interests OTHER than trains.

I think it is wonderful that a community organization like a city transit system is recognizing and embracing its impact on children on the spectrum.  Programs like the NY Transit Museum's excite and inspire kids with ASD, invite them to participate in the community, and build social skills and friendships.

What is your experience? Have you visited a transportation museum (or a museum dedicated to another special interest)?

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