How To Do It:
Starting with a Strength Based Perspective
  • Focus on all the activities the children will be able to participate in as opposed to those they may not be able to do.
  • Provide training to all museum staff that will be interacting with the children and their families.
  • Assess the museum staff's thoughts, fears and concerns about providing inclusive programs. How can you increase understanding of what inclusion means, what it looks like, what skills and techniques can be utilized to promote participation of all children? Also provide information to foster the use of respectful and appropriate language when addressing children and families with special needs.
Why Children's Museums are Good Environments for Putting Skills Learned in Therapy into Practice:
  • They are a safe place for caregivers to encourage their child to try out new skills.
  • They offer a setting that presents common real-life experiences
Why Plan a Pilot Program:
  • To evaluate all aspects of the session- from planning/ implementation/ to outcomes for participants
  • To use evaluation results for program enhancements and planning of subsequent programs.
Factors to Consider:
  • Examine what services families are receiving in the community by surveying agencies that work with children with special needs
  • Develop criteria for the targeted population
    • Consider the ages of the children
    • Consider whether you want a heterogeneous or homogeneous group
    • Consider the functional skills of the children
  • Establish a plan for recruiting children and families
    • Be clear internally. Does everyone in your organization know about and understand the initiative?
    • Develop a short internal informational flyer. Every level of staff should know about the new initiative. Flyers should be no more than one page, so they can be posted in areas that staff frequent (i.e., mailrooms, lunchrooms) and can be accessed quickly.
  • Examine museum exhibits to determine what skills can be targeted in the different exhibit areas.
  • Special recommendations: Be sure to take time determining the structure and target population for the groups so that all participants will benefit. If you have too much diversity (i.e., wide age ranges, walkers and non-walkers), you may have trouble keeping everyone involved and engaged.

Setting Goals for the Children:
Some of the Following Should Be Considered:

An Improved Ability to:
  • Participate fully
  • Have fun exploring the exhibits
  • Make choices
  • Follow directions
  • Indicate requests
  • Wait in line and wait for their turn
  • Independently maneuver around obstacles
  • Improve fine motor/hand skills for greater independence
Setting Goals for Caregivers:
Some of the Following Should Be Considered:

An Increased Ability to:
  • Understand their own needs in relation to parenting a child with special needs
  • Feel comfortable in understanding how to foster their child's independence
  • Understand their child's unique needs as well as the needs of the other children in the group
  • Advocate for their child
  • Learn how to access additional resources in the community

How Port Discovery & PACT Achieved Success
PACT and Port Discovery strongly believe that parents/caregivers should play an integral role in their children's treatment and care. Staff members from both programs work closely with parents and other caregivers to provide them with information and training on how they can best foster their children's developmental progress. Staff members are also aware that many parents are struggling with the multiple challenges of raising children with special needs while, at the same time, meeting the needs of other family members.

A thorough staff training and development plan was critical for relationship building and conducting cohesive programs between partners. PACT's training for Port Discovery staff addressed:

1. Ways to include children with medical, developmental, and behavioral needs in activities and exhibits.

2.Strategies for enhancing parent-child attachment for high-risk infants, toddlers and their parents.
3. Awareness of sensory processing and the sensory environment.

Port Discovery's training for PACT staff addressed:

1. Orientation to the museum to gain an understanding about how to best utilize the museum exhibits

2. Sharing ideas for the development of new exhibits and initiatives that would better serve young children and children with special needs

Some of the lessons learned from the pilot year included a reciprocal need for training and orientation regarding organizational culture, planning processes, policies and procedures that could affect program offerings, and logistical constraints. The evaluation process, critical at every step during the pilot year, provided valuable information for future programming.