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Houston Museum Makes Exhibits More Sensory Friendly for Children With Autism

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The Houston Museum of Natural Science is bringing to light a new and exciting way for children with autism to experience exhibits. They are providing resources to enhance and meet your child’s sensory needs so their visit is a memorable one. Their goal is to create an atmosphere that is accessible to everyone. With various resources and events set in place, they hope to provide an enjoyable visit by helping you plan and decide which exhibit halls are appropriate for you and your family.

Houston Museum of Natural Science

Houston Museum of Natural Science

Photo: Facebook/Houston Museum of Natural Science

According to its website, the purpose of the Houston Museum of Natural Science (HMNS) has always been to “enhance in individuals the knowledge and delight in natural science and related subjects.” Founded in 1909 the HMNS is a long standing staple in the community of Houston, TX and a favorite among the many museums to visit. It is one of the “most heavily attended museums” in the United States.

Knowing the challenges families face with having a child with autism, the museum wanted to make their experience visiting HMNS all the more accessible and enjoyable. There have been adjustments made to almost every exhibit and resources to assist families in opening up a new and exciting world with reduced triggers to make the experience all the more engaging for their child such as having exhibits that normally would be accompanied by noises to enhance the exhibit turned off.



Photo: Facebook/Houston Museum of Natural Science

Some of the resources HMNS has put into effect to assist in making the museum visit for families with children affected by autism spectrum disorder are as follows:

  • Visual Vocabulary Card: The cards help make visiting exhibits and going between museum halls easier. “You can also use these cards to create a visual schedule of your day at HMNS,” shares its website.
  • Sensory Guide: The sensory guide is a great way to decide which exhibit halls are most appropriate for your family and meet your child’s sensory needs according to HMNS. “The guide includes noise levels, visual stimulation, and tactile components.”
  • An HMNS Exploration Planner: This planner is a great way to have your day planned in advance for your child’s visit. “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.”
  • Sensory Backpacks: Parents will be overjoyed with a backpack filled with items such as fidgets, stuffed animals, ear defenders, and sunglasses, among other things, that HMNS is providing for their child to have a “sensory-friendly” visit.

Special Events and Tips

Houston Museum of Natural Science Events

Photo: Facebook/Houston Museum of Natural Science

Throughout the year, HMNS will provide special sensory friendly events that open early for instance at 8 a.m. “with modified lighting and reduced sound to turn the museum into a more comfortable and welcoming environment for visitors with sensory sensitivities.” This fall they plan to have such an event with modifications set in place all day.

Some additional tips provided by HMNS include visiting at low volume times as the museum tends to be more crowded during certain dates and times. Have your exploration planner in place to make the most of your visit, and plan ahead for lunch. For more tips and information on their accessibility plans and the Houston Museum of Natural Science, visit