Now That You Have Assessed the Needs in Your Community, the Following Steps May Help You Identify a Partner That Serves Children with Special Needs:
1. Develop an initial list of what your internal resources are because this will be needed later when you determine the services you will be offering.

2. Develop a list of the resources and expertise that will be needed to create a successful program that will benefit the special needs community you hope to serve.

3. Research potential partners.

Call potential partners and schedule a meeting. The good news about this phase is that even if this program idea does not work, you may identify other avenues in which you can partner on in the future. This is a GREAT way to build capacity.

Assessing a Potential Partner:
  • What is the potential partner organization's mission? Is it compatible to your organization's mission?
  • Research the potential partner organization for press, awards, and reputation.
  • Does your museum share any current (or past) partners with the potential partner organization? If yes, ask the current partner about their partnership experience.
  • Does the potential partner's organization appear to be stable? (ex: is there a lot of staff turnover or average number of years employees have worked there?, etc.) After meeting with the potential partner, do they have complementary resources and services to bring to the partnership?

Steps for Getting to Know Other Organizations to Form a Partnership:
1. Tour each other's organizations. See what the facilities are like, meet the staff, and talk about the mission, culture, value systems, and challenges. Furnish partners with descriptions of programs/ activities and exhibits.

2. Develop a partnership agreement that clearly states who will be responsible for what components of the project. This helps to eliminate any breakdown in communication.

3. Identify a point of contact from each organization.

4. Plan how the organizations will communicate and when.

5. Build a project timeline including times for debriefing.

6. Discuss how both organizations will address challenges.

How Port Discovery & PACT Achieved Success
Staff from Port Discovery and PACT met to brainstorm possible collaborative projects and partnership goals. Initially both institutions discussed all possibilities including:
  • Working together to adapt museum exhibits to better meet the needs of younger children and those with special needs. This would enable Port Discovery to enhance their exhibits to better serve populations they were interested in targeting, while employing PACT's expertise in the area of early intervention.
  • Providing trainings to childcare providers at Port Discovery to increase their exposure to the museum while at the same time increasing their awareness of how to meet the needs of all children. These trainings would increase the possibility that area childcare providers would bring children they care for to the museum. This would also give PACT the opportunity to meet one of its program goals of increasing childcare providers' knowledge and comfort in providing care to children with differing abilities.
  • Providing therapy specific groups (physical, occupational, speech/language and counseling). In the initial planning stages we discussed a number of possibilities for groups.

These included therapy discipline specific groups:

  • A gross motor group run by physical therapists to target children with more physical challenges (ie cerebral palsy, spina bifida, limb loss)
  • A social communication group led by the speech pathologists, or later we considered the possibility of a bilingual speech group for families with Spanish as their primary language
  • A generalized motor coordination and sensory needs group, led by an occupational therapist, for children on the Autism spectrum
  • Helping Your Child with Special Needs in the Community : We envisioned this as a multidisciplinary group, serving children with varying needs. The focus would be on helping families translate what is done in therapy and to generalize these skills in the more controlled and structured museum environment that mimicked "real world" opportunities.
  • In the later planning stages, we also added the idea of a Caregivers Come Together group. This would be a support group for caregivers while children were engaged in therapeutic activities. The focus would be on team building activities utilizing museum exhibits.
Following the initial planning meetings that focused on everything both organizations would love to do given endless time and resources, the meetings shifted focus to decide what both organizations could do now, which was essentially two pronged: one aspect was to have several meetings to solely focus on funding, while the other focus was to look very specifically at how the projects would proceed when funding became available.