An Eastern North Carolina institution has made a big leap in ensuring the state’s commitment to inclusive education. The N.C. Maritime Museum at Southport is the state’s first Certified Autism Center (CAC).
Staff and volunteers were certified through the International Board of Credentialing and Continuing Education Standards (IBCCES) to earn the site’s designation.
“It's important organizations utilize programs that incorporate information not only from experts or even parents of individuals with special needs, but programs that incorporate the experiences and perspectives of individuals on the spectrum themselves,” said Meredith Tekin, IBCCES president. “Being friendly means something different to everyone, so certification and communication are key.”
The distinction is closely tied to the museum’s work with patrons with autism and other sensory disorders. In addition to close work with the Able Buddies program, the museum also sits on the Brunswick County Interagency Coordinating Council for Children with Special Needs.
“We’ve done a lot of work with the special needs population in our part of North Carolina,” said Katy Menne, the museum’s education curator. “We strive for the utmost inclusivity. At most museums, people think they can not touch anything. We encourage our guests to touch and play with almost everything.”
Part of that comes from what the museum calls Sensory Saturdays, allotted times where music is turned off and lights are dimmed to accommodate visitors with sensory disorders. The museum also has allotted spaces for visitors who might need to calm down from overstimulation.
“It strengthens why you should visit North Carolina,” Menne said. “It is a wonderful way to show that, from the community up, we stand for accessibility. We want to help families who might feel a little different know there is always somewhere to actively learn.”
For more information on Sensory Saturday or other museum programming, call 910-477-5151 or visit https://ncmaritimemuseumsouthport.com. For more information on IBCCES or becoming a Certified Autism Center, visit ibcess.org.