DUTCHESS COUNTY, N.Y. — The Franklin D. Roosevelt Presidential Library and Museum in Hyde Park recently announced that it is joining forces with Anderson Center for Autism (ACA) to become an official “Autism Supportive Environment.”
By partnering with ACA, which is responsible for working with 45 Dutchess County businesses and organizations to create more accommodating spaces, the FDR Presidential Library and Museum plans to improve the support needs of visitors impacted by the neurological disorder, according to a release from FDR.
Nancy Osborn, behavior analyst at Anderson Center for Autism, described the program’s development, which began in 2012: “I realized how isolated the families of our children and adults with autism are, and how difficult it is to participate in normal activities like going to a park or parade, bowling, or enjoying a dinner out. We realized we could be teaching and training businesses on how to better support these folks. This program is pivotal in shifting our thinking as an entire community, allowing us to reflect upon what we really want in life – to be welcomed, respected, and valued.”
Funded in part by Dutchess County’s #ThinkDIFFERENTLY initiative, the team at FDR began the process, first meeting with Anderson Center for Autism staff for an environmental assessment, after which point the Anderson Center team put together recommendations that would make the site more accommodating.
The environmental assessments conducted by the team at Anderson for all interested in becoming “Autism Supportive Environments” evaluate several areas, including noise levels, access to comfortable, quiet spaces, presence of visuals and picture boards to help those with autism understand what to expect, availability of extra staff to provide personalized experiences, and access to private rooms, according to the release.
Following the assessment, Anderson Center for Autism staff work with businesses and organizations to ensure that a plan is developed and implemented, which will address the aforementioned areas, among other items, ensuring that businesses and organizations are doing everything possible to accommodate people with autism, the release said.
According to Jeffrey S. Urbin, education specialist and director of the Pare Lorentz Film Center and Roosevelt Presidential Library and Museum, “One of the things we need to work on are our exhibits – for someone who is sensitive to noise or a great deal of movement, these could be overwhelming as they are set up right now. We also need to be mindful of adjusting our tour times; some folks are unable to stay focused for a full 45-minute tour, so we can condense those into 15-minute tours if need be, and provide enough staffing to ensure that families can access private tours if they wish.
“We also want to create comfortable, quiet spaces if people need to decompress and picture boards to help people with autism know what to expect in each area – and these are just some examples of what we discovered after meeting with the Anderson Center for Autism staff; we have really learned so much,” Urbin concluded.
For more information about ACA, visit andersoncenterforautism.org.