From social distancing requirements to in-person gathering restrictions, many New Yorkers with Autism Spectrum Disorder (ASD) and other intellectual disabilities had to adapt to a new normal on their own during the pandemic.
Now, to address the additional challenges these individuals have faced over the past year, organizations like Explore & More – The Ralph C. Wilson, Jr. Children’s Museum in Buffalo are reimagining and expanding programming for children with autism and sensory processing disorders. Since 1999, Explore & More has provided a welcoming, dynamic environment for all children age 10 and younger regardless of creed, race, gender, sexual orientation, or physical abilities — fulfilling its commitment to equity, access and inclusion.
As the only hands-on interactive children’s museum in Western New York, Explore & More Children’s Museum received $71,472 from the Foundation to continue Au-Some Evenings — a free monthly program that includes activities like therapy dogs and art, and has a caregiver program, virtual experiences and host small groups in the museum for children with autism.
For a long time, research has shown that play is important for healthy physical, emotional, and intellectual development. That is why, since the height of the pandemic, Au-Some Evenings has provided instruction in different languages and reached 11,400 individuals in Western New York.
With increased funding, 1,200 children are expected to participate in Au-Some Evenings. Further, the program will provide home kits for 45 low-income children with intellectual disabilities and their caregivers.
This Autism Awareness Month, it is important we ensure opportunities for development and play remain accessible for all New Yorkers. From creating sensory-friendly environments to increasing autism-friendly events and educational activities, accessibility and inclusivity are key in creating a healthier, more equitable New York.