I’ll have to hold my hands up and admit that the most nerve-wracking thing about us going travelling as a family is how Dylan will cope with what we are doing. We have always said we wouldn’t let autism hold us back from living a normal family life, we mostly know our limits, but then there are times where we do put autism to the test. Flying to a busy city like New York with him was one of those tests.
After travelling to California just the year previous, we felt invincible when it came to taking him out and about again. As long as he’s in the comfort of his pram where he is strapped in, he will happily go anywhere and do anything. This may be a curveball as he gets older but for now, we are making the most of being able to do activities and days out as a family.
Just like we did when we went to California (Pretend City Children’s Museum – AMAZING!), we searched possible places and events that we could take Dylan to. We hit the jackpot when we discovered that The American Museum Of Natural History was hosting The Discovery Squad, a unique tour program designed for families affected by autism spectrum disorders the day after we land in New York.
Because we weren’t local and because Dylan wasn’t quite 5 I dropped them an email explaining that we would be coming over for a couple of weeks and how we would love to attend this tour if possible. I received an email telling us that of course we could join in and to phone and book a place on the tour. That phone call was the best verbal experience I had ever received when it came to chatting about Dylan and autism. The lovely lady on the phone asked us questions about what could upset him, how they could help him get the best out of it and was there anything they could do to cater to him. I came off the phone in tears, and I could not wait to kickstart our NYC holiday with a tour of The American Museum of Natural History.
Our morning started in the Theodore Roosevelt Memorial Hall where we waited for the other families, while we waited we re-read the autism-friendly information they sent through about the tour with Dylan which explained what we were going to be doing using simple words and photos. We then set us to explore the dioramas in the Jill and Lewis Bernard Family Hall of North American Mammals, which offered us a snapshot of the plants and animals native to North America.
Our tour then took us through into the Hall Of Biodiversity. The hall’s Spectrum of Life exhibit showcases the diversity of life resulting from 3.5 billion years of evolution. More than 1,500 specimens and models, from microorganisms to terrestrial and aquatic giants, are organised into 28 groups along the 100-foot-long installation. There was just so much to look at; we could have spent hours in this hall.
We then plunged into the ocean to explore the dioramas in the Milstein Hall of Ocean Life. I loved watching Dylan’s face come to life when he saw the 94 long model whale! Charlotte walked underneath it for a good 10 minutes until she realised what was above us, that did make us giggle.
After our tour, we headed to The Discover Room which is every sensory loving child’s ideal room. All three children had so much fun in this room, and I beamed with delight as I watched Dylan being handed objects to play. We had such a fantastic time on the discovery squad tour; it was so blissful to watch Dylan enjoy the museum in his own time in the quiet as it was shut to the public. Big shout out to the staff for making our first morning in New York such a wonderful experience.
The Discovery Squad is held monthly on a Saturday morning at The American Museum Of Natural History. The recommended age is 5-14 years with each child being accompanied by an adult. The tickets are free, but advance registration is a must as they do not accept walk-ins.