Families First: HMNS Expands Accessibility to Accommodate Autism Spectrum Disorders

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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.

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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.

Hello! And who are you?

Commemorating the 400th anniversary of the discovery of Manhattan Island.

On September 4, 1609, Henry Hudson, employed by the Dutch East India Company, discovered the island of Manhattan. This year marks the 400th anniversary of that voyage.

Here is the rest of the story.

Amerigo Vespucci
Creative Commons License photo credit:
pedrosimoes7

Hudson may not have been the first European explorer who reached this part of the Americas. Two other explorers, Giovanni Verrazano, a Florentine, and Estevan Gomez, a Portuguese, who preceded Hudson by nearly one hundred years, each on their own voyage of exploration. Estevan Gomez left for the New World in 1524. He reached the Florida coast in January 1525. He traveled north and appears to have reached the coast of what we now call Massachusetts later in the year. In a letter dated July 8, 1524, Giovanni Verrazano addresses Francis I, King of France, Giovanni Verrazano describes how they reached “a very agreeable place between two small but prominent hills; between them a very wide river, deep at its mouth, flow out into the sea; and with the help of the tide, which rises eight feet, any laden ship could have passed from the sea into the river estuary.” Scholars agree that this is a reference to New York harbor..

Yellowtailed Cockatoo fan
Creative Commons License photo credit: Medicinehorse7

Even though Verrazano offered the opinion that these new lands had new land which had “never been seen before by any man, either Ancient or modern,” there was dense human settlement on the Island of Manhattan. Verrazano himself acknowledges this as he describes people as “dressed in birds’ feathers of various color,” a gentle reminder to us of what was lost over the centuries since the European arrival. Even though the custom of feather work making survived in North and South America, feather work dating back 500 years or even more, can only be found in parts of South America.

Oral tradition, written down about one and a half century later describes the encounter from the Indian point of view. A few days after the initial encounter between the Europeans and the original inhabitants of the Island, the former “proposed to stay with them, asking them only for so much land as the hide of a bullock would cover (or encompass,) which hide was brought forward and spread on the ground before them. That they readily granted this request; whereupon the whites took a knife, and beginning at one place on this hide, cut it up into a rope not thicker than the finger of a little child, so that by the time this hide was cut up there was a great heap. [T]his rope was drawn out to a great distance, and then brought round again, so that both ends might meet. That they carefully avoided its breaking, and that upon the whole it encompassed a large piece of ground. That they (the Indians) were surprised at the superior wit of the whites, but did not wish to contend with them about a little land, as they had enough.”  Dutch presence and settlement, both on Manhattan Island and in other parts of New York state, steadily grew over the next half century.

We benefit from decades of archaeological research in North, Central and South America related to the arrival of the earliest settlers. We know that people have been here for millennia before the first Europeans arrived. The origins of the word Manhattan may reside in a Munsee language expression, /e:nta menahahte:nk/ “where one gathers bows.” Exotic? Perhaps, but certainly no stranger than the fictitious anthropology report on the tribe of the “Nacirema.” See for yourself if their strange behaviors sound familiar to you….

As New York prepares to celebrate, it is good to remember that there is always more to the story. Digging around in archives and rekindling old oral traditions does, occasionally, bring the past back alive.