The New York Transit Museum has developed a unique programme for young train enthusiasts with autism
by Elyse Newman, Education Manager, New York Transit Museum
The New York Transit Museum, housed in a 1936 decommissioned subway station in Downtown Brooklyn, has long been a magnet for youth on the autism spectrum who love trains and transportation. Some of these children come every single weekend to the museum with their parents and know the subway map backwards and forwards as well as exactly what train models run on what subway lines. Many of them dream of growing up to be a train operator.
About seven years ago the museum’s leadership realised we were in a unique position to create a highly specialised programme for children with autism that could harness this deep enthusiasm to help young people develop social skills. In conjunction with autism specialists, the museum designed Subway Sleuths, its acclaimed afterschool programme for young train enthusiasts (2nd through 5th graders) on the autism spectrum. In 2016 the Transit Museum received the National Arts and Humanities Youth Program award for Subway Sleuths, the nation’s highest honour for out-of-school programmes, as well as the American Alliance of Museum’s Excellence in Programming award.