For children with autism and sensory processing disorders, play spaces that meet their needs can be hard to come by. WOW! Children’s Museum in Lafayette is trying to meet kids where they are and provide a space for play among children of all abilities.
“Over the past year and a half as we’ve been working on this exhibit, I’ve really been introduced to the growing network of parents in our area who are actively searching for ideas and resources to support their children’s development if their child has special needs,” said Jennifer Hinderliter, the executive director at WOW! Children’s Museum.
Sensory processing disorders effect one or multiple senses, making loud or fast-paced environments overwhelming. WOW!’s new exhibit provides a calm space for children to play and learn.
“Forest of Light is a sensory friendly exhibit,” said Hinderliter. “If you enter the space, you’ll be transported into a dark quiet forest space.”
The forest-themed space features tactile and visual experiences within a darkened space. There is an interactive river, a giant pin wall, a giant-size Lite-Brite, colorful kaleidoscopes and a hideout hollow — all offering a variety of spaces for play.
“We tried to use natural materials as much as possible,” said Hinderliter. “All of the different elements in there were inspired by participants in our Sensory Friendly Playtime.”
WOW! has already been offering a Sensory Friendly Playtime program where they purposefully turn down the lights and sounds to offer a calmer space for children with autism and sensory processing disorders, but they sought out a more permanent exhibit to add more inclusivity for children to play and learn.
Hinderliter says that it will also provide a space for occupational therapists to work with client families.
For now, Hinderliter says she’s proud of what they’ve accomplished.
“I’m just so proud that WOW is working to make the museum as accessible as possible to all children in our community,” she said.
Editor's Note: WOW! Children's Museum is an underwriter with KUNC.