Families First: HMNS Expands Accessibility to Accommodate Autism Spectrum Disorders


Families come in many shapes, many sizes and many kinds. We at the Houston Museum of Natural Science are always looking for ways to make our halls and collections more accessible to families of every background. That’s why we’re excited to announce our new resources for families of children with sensory sensitivities and autism spectrum disorders.

Over the past few months, we’ve been working with educators, families and professionals to develop resources that will make your family’s visit to HMNS more enjoyable. These resources can be used as pre-visit tools to plan your trip to the museum as well as during your visit to make navigating the exhibit halls easier. Take a look at what we’ve prepared for you below!

Visual Vocabulary

Use our Visual Vocabulary Cards to make visiting new spaces and transitioning between museum halls easier. You can also use these cards to create a visual schedule of your day at HMNS!

Sensory Map

Our Sensory Map provides you with information about what sensory stimuli your child can expect in each exhibit, including noise levels, visual stimulation and tactile components. Use this guide to plan your visit and decide which exhibit halls are appropriate for your family. You can also use this map to ensure your transitions and pathways between museum halls are appropriate for your child’s sensory needs.

HMNS Exploration Planner

Visit HMNS before you walk through the doors! Use our Exploration Planner to let your child know what to expect during your day at the museum, from waiting in line at the box office to exploring our many exhibit halls. Let Dipsy the Diplodocus give you helpful tips on what to look for along the way!Access2

Laminated copies of these resources will be available for you to check out at Museum Services, just inside the main exhibit hall entrance. You are welcome to use these copies, or feel free to bring your own printed versions!

Make sure to check out our Accessibility page for more helpful tips, like what days and times are the quietest or where you can easily park for your visit. We are committed to making this experience as easy as possible for you and your family.


Accessibility is a cause near and dear to our hearts. The three of us are educators and work with kids of all kinds every day, and our goal is to make HMNS an open and welcoming environment for literally everyone.

We hope you’ll take advantage of these resources during your next visit to HMNS. Your family will be a great addition to our family.

If you have any questions, concerns or feedback regarding accessibility, please feel free to contact us.

Mark Your Calendars for these events happening at HMNS 3/28-4/3

Bust out your planners, calendars, and PDAs (if you are throwback like that), it’s time to mark your calendars for the HMNS events of this week!

Lecture – The Poison in Our Food Supply by Thierry Vrain
Tuesday, Mar. 29
6:30 p.m.
Soil biologist and genetic engineer Dr. Thierry Vrain has studied first-hand the damage done to our bodies by the proliferation of glyphosate (Round-Up) and genetically modified foods (GMOs) in our food supply. These dangers are well known and covered up by the manufacturer, Monsanto. Dr. Vrain will explain the latest in scientific studies in a compelling address on this serious health danger as every day we are being poisoned and as such our health is deteriorating. In a special visit to the US, renowned agriculture expert Dr. Thierry Vrain will explain to us the poison in our food supply and what we can do about it. Dr. Vrain spent the last 40 years with the Canada Department of Agriculture. This lecture is hosted by the Organic Benefits Alliance of Houston, Urban Harvest, HMNS and Anume with sponsorship by from MicroLife.

Class – Growing Great Tomatoes & Summer Vegetables
Mar. 30 & Apr. 2
Learn all about late spring and summer organic vegetable gardening, including tomatoes, in metro Houston – what varieties to plant and when, soil prep, fertilization, seed planting, transplanting, trellising and pest management. This class will cover the types and varieties of vegetables that can be planted, with an emphasis on both spring and fall tomatoes.

Sponsored by Urban Harvest.

HMNS After Dark
Wednesday, Mar. 30
Museum closes at 9:00 p.m.
You asked, and we answered. For everyone who has wished for access to the museum in the cool evenings after work, here’s your chance… HMNS will stay open from 9:00 a.m. to 9:00 p.m. Wednesday, Mar. 30!

Science Hack Day Houston
Saturday, Apr. 2 – Sunday, Apr. 3
Science Hack Day Houston is a 48-hour-all-night event that brings together inquisitive and creative minds to one place, to make wonderful things. Science lovers from designers to engineers collaborate to build ideas, solve problems, and create something awesome. By collaborating on focused tasks during this short period, small groups of makers are capable of producing remarkable results.
Anyone who is excited about making things with science is welcome to attend – no experience in science or hacking is necessary, just an insatiable curiosity. Hack Day is inherently about mashing up ideas, mediums, industries and people to create sparks for future ideas, collaborations and inspirations to launch from. For more information visit ScienceHackDayHouston.com. #SHDH2016

Organized by Brightwork CoResearch and Digital Schematics

Mark Your Calendars for these events happening at HMNS 3/21-3/27

Bust out your planners, calendars, and PDAs (if you are throwback like that), it’s time to mark your calendars for the HMNS events of this week!

Lecture – Shamans and the Supernatural World, Pre-Columbian Iconography of Peru by Ed Barnhart
Tuesday, March 22
6:30 p.m.
Traditional writing did not exist in ancient South America, so the messages encoded in tens of thousands of beautiful pieces of Pre-Columbian art are the vital clues to understanding the peoples and cultures. The groundbreaking work of Dr. Edwin Barnhart has unlocked the meanings and iconography of pre-Columbian Peru which have been a mystery for centuries. Revealing shamanic healing ceremonies, the calling of supernatural spirits, and how decapitation is not execution, but actually about enslaving the souls of one’s enemies, Dr. Barnhart will present a fascinating reinterpretation of ancient Peruvian art. Warfare, human sacrifice, erotic sex and a pantheon of bizarre deities, most importantly the Fanged Deity, the themes that the ancient artists intended to convey have a deeper meaning-one of the shamanic ability to contact the supernatural world.

Class – Introduction to Minerals: Origins, Classifications and Uses
Saturday, March 26
9:00 a.m.
Go behind-the-scenes in the Museum’s staff training lab where hundreds of specimens are uniquely presented in a hands-on road maps. In this introduction of mineral and rocks, learn techniques to, identify, classify and test rocks and minerals. You will learn where and how rocks and minerals form, as well as the composition and processes that make each unique. This workshop will deepen your appreciation of rocks, minerals and gems in your everyday life. The instructor is geologist and paleontologist James Washington, HMNS staff trainer. This workshop includes time in the Cullen Hall of Gems and Minerals and Van Pelt Gemstone Carving exhibitions. Class size is limited.

Class – Rocks and Environments: Supporting Evidence of Plate Tectonics
Saturday, March 26
1:00 p.m.
Go behind-the-scenes in the Museum’s staff training lab where hundreds of specimens are uniquely presented in a hands-on road maps.
For a century, scientists have been piecing together the clues of geology’s great unifying theory: the Theory of Plate Tectonics. First proposed in the 1960s, the concepts of Continental Drift that the theory is derived from are only a little over one hundred years old. This course investigates the evidence of plate tectonics, piece by piece, building a complete understanding of one of the most pivotal of geology’s theories. This workshop includes time in the Wiess Energy Hall, Earth Forum and Hall of African Wildlife.

Mark Your Calendars for these events happening at HMNS 3/7-3/13

Bust out your planners, calendars, and PDAs (if you are throwback like that), it’s time to mark your calendars for the HMNS events of this week!

Last week’s featured #HMNSBlockParty creation is by Alexis Fiero (age: 9):

block party 14

Want to get your engineering handwork featured? Drop by our Block Party interactive play area and try your own hand building a gravity-defying masterpiece. Tag your photos with #HMNSBlockParty.

After Hours Behind-the-Scenes Tours
Monday, Mar. 7
6:00 p.m.
Amber Secrets: Feathers from the Age of Dinosaurs
Amber Secrets, Feathers from the Age of Dinosaurs features over 100 specimens dating as far back as 99 million years ago. Plants, fungus, vertebrates and invertebrates such as insects, spiders, scorpions, snails, millipedes and centipedes are represented. Highlights include feathers and lizards encapsulated in amber. Each polished translucent gem provides a window to the time of the dinosaurs. 
La Virgen de Guadalupe: Empress of the Americas
Going back to the 8th century in a struggle between Muslim and Spanish naval forces and on to the appearance in the Aztec capital in the 15th century, Virgin of Guadalupe was adopted as a symbol in Europe and the New World during times of friction. Through the artwork and artifacts on display, your guide will trace the increasing role the Virgin of Guadalupe played in society.