Port Discovery is very committed to being accessible to all who want to pass through its doors and we have been particularly aware of and responsive to the needs of those visitors with differing abilities since opening in 1998.

The original design of the Museum incorporates universal design principles, ensuring that children at different developmental levels can access each area. As the Museum continues to develop new programs and exhibits, it remains committed to its role as a unique resource for families and their children who have special needs...

PACT: Helping Children with Special Needs is a 501(c)(3) organization affiliated with the Kennedy Krieger Institute, an internationally recognized organization providing patient care, education, research and community programs to 14,000 children with special needs annually.

The idea of both organizations partnering was first introduced when a member of Kennedy Krieger Institute's Senior Management and Port Discovery's Executive Director were discussing ways they could collaborate. Following this, Port Discovery and PACT staff met in 2007 to discuss a partnership that would serve families with children who have special needs by providing them with an inclusive - and playful - therapeutic community. Visiting each other's locations, staff discussed their missions, services, institutional values, unique features and internal resources and strengths.

These fact-finding meetings revealed many commonalities. PACT promotes the development of young children with special needs and helps their families through specialized childcare programs, comprehensive assessments, early intervention services, family support, parent education, counseling and professional training. Port Discovery provides experiences that ignite imagination, inspire learning and nurture growth through play. Both organizations value the benefits of early intervention and recognize the importance of working with caregivers as well as their children.

As PACT and Port Discovery began to collaborate, we realized that our individual program's missions and philosophies of care complemented the other and that both programs had something to learn from

each other that would further enhance service options for young children with disabilities and their families. Port Discovery was seeking to increase accessibility for children with special needs and their families, with a specific focus on exhibits designed for ages 5 and under. PACT wanted to offer families a setting where families could practice the techniques they learned in therapy sessions and provide an opportunity for them to meet other families with similar life experiences.

It was the goal of both organizations that families would have a place that they would return to on their own with their children who have special needs.

The partnership's mission was to provide an inclusive " playful" therapeutic community for children of all abilities and their families. The partnership goal was to combine the best of what a children's museum and a health and human services organization have to offer for families with children who have special needs. The partnership activities include adapting museum exhibits and programming for young children and those with special needs, providing therapy groups that help children with special needs in the community and offering support to parents and other caregivers.