Changing Attitudes Towards Autism Access (CATAAlysis)

Changing Attitudes Towards Autism Access (CATAAlysis) is an innovative initiative of the Academy of Natural Sciences of Drexel University (ANS), in partnership with the Center for Aquatic Sciences at Adventure Aquarium and Autism Inclusion Resources (AIR). This project includes development of a set of staff training programs, digital and hands-on resources, and accommodations to help support the inclusion of families with children on the autism spectrum in museum exhibits, programs, and workshops.

The intended outcomes of the project include:

1. Increase visitation by families with children on the autism spectrum

2. Improve engagement between staff and families

3. Encourage social and collaborative learning and interaction

4. Enhance quality of community engagement for families with autistic children

Autism is a spectrum disorder, meaning that some individuals on the spectrum are “high functioning,” while others are “low functioning.” Functionality is usually understood as the ability to use verbal language, engage successfully with others, and take part in typical activities with or without support. Whatever their functional level, people with autism have certain characteristics that make involvement in public programs particularly challenging.

Museum settings are often challenging to individuals with autism as a result of high noise levels, blinking lights, crowds, lines, and social expectations. Informal STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering, Mathematics) learning centers offer opportunities to children with autism, many of whom are particularly talented in and interested in STEM (Baron-Cohen, 2001).

The Academy’s CAATAlysis project is creating products to support inclusion, encourage deepening engagement with STEM learning in the museum, provide ongoing staff support, and promote STEM programs for autistic children and teens in the community.

The Academy now offers pre-visit materials for families of children on the spectrum. Materials include specific tools and tactics, such as museum stories, to help plan your visit. Please click here for more information.

imls logo

This project is made possible by a grant from the U.S. Institute of Museum and Library Services.