Posts Tagged ‘special needs children museum NYC’

My Kids Love Curious George And Curious George Is At CMOM => My Kids Love The New Exhibit At CMOM?

July 18, 2011 2 comments

I brought all of the kids to CMOM a few weeks ago to see the new Curious George exhibit. Though CMOM is geared toward younger children and I usually only bring my 2 yr old and 9 month old, they have also been recognized for their Guide for Families of Children with Disabilities and their accessibility initiatives so I felt comfortable bringing my older, disabled child to the exhibit.

Before I tell you about our most recent visit, I just want to say that I truly enjoy bringing my daughter to CMOM and she has loved each and every visit we have made over the last year. That being said, with so many unique and wonderful family museums, zoos and places to explore in the city, this year I may opt for a membership to an institution that fits the needs of all of my children, and will just plan to just bring my younger two for the occasional pay-as-you-go visit to CMOM.

CMOM’s Early Childhood Initiative, taken from their website (

CMOM believes that children learn best when provided with nurturing, creative environments that support play, imagination, curiosity and discovery. Our comprehensive early childhood curriculum engages all facets of your child’s life by bringing together the arts, language, science, math and the humanities.

More on PlayWorks™ »
More on Adventures with Dora and Diego »
More on City Splash »
Eat Sleep Play: Family Programs »
More on PlayWorks™ Reads »

CMOM seems to hit their Early Childhood Initiative right on. Despite the noise and crowds on our most recent trip, my 2 yr old had a fantastic time as usual. The Curious George exhibit was full of neat props and displays – she especially loved the miniature golf, the “wind gun” and a huge model of George’s apartment building.

She also really liked a large slide in the Curious George exhibit, though my husband and I were not as thrilled with it. The stairs leading to the slide were narrow and enclosed, making it impossible for parents to see, let alone be near their children as they climbed up to the slide. The pushing, noisy, impatient throng of children in the enclosed stairway for the slide made it all the more dangerous and sometimes it would be a couple of long minutes before my daughter made it to the top of the 3-second ride down.

On the day of our visit it was a weekend and rainy (a mistake we will never make again), and the crowds had obviously overwhelmed the staff. The rooms were a mess and pieces were missing from exhibits on almost every floor. The coat/stroller check wait was long and the coat checkers were tense and unsmiling (though not rude). Not our best visit, but again, our toddler seemed to enjoy herself immensely.

Long story short, if your child likes Curious George this is definitely worth a trip, but maybe on a sunny Tuesday at 1pm.

Now let me tell you about the very same trip with James.

CMOM’s Accessibility Initiative, taken from their website ( – the bold is my own commentary:

CMOM is a place for children of all abilities to play, explore and be themselves. The Museum offers children with disabilities the opportunity to explore a wide variety of activities that provide tactile, visual and auditory stimulation. (auditory means screaming children) CMOM works with an advisory board for families of children with disabilities to expand outreach efforts and to review exhibits and programs to insure that they meet the needs of all museum visitors.(unless there are parents of typical younger children nearby) CMOM partners with local schools to provide guided group visits for students with learning and physical disabilities and regularly offers open houses designed to encourage parents of children with disabilities understand how they can best take advantage of the Museum and its resources. (but not open hours for children with disabilities)

CMOM’s Guide for Families of Children with Disabilities, developed with funding from the Noble Trust and in collaboration with experts in the field of learning and special needs, helps children with disabilities and their parents/caretakers, to more fully explore and maximize learning in PlayWorks™. CMOM was recognized for its innovative work on the Guide for Families of Children with Disabilities by the Association of Children’s Museums and VSA Arts with the 2009 Universal Design for Learning Award, which identifies model programs in children’s museums that demonstrate learning standards for inclusive practice. For more information e-mail

My email to CMOM after our visit to the Curious George exhibit (bold statements were not included in the email and are current commentary):

I am a member at CMOM with 3 children, ages 10, 2 and 8 months. I bring my younger two children regularly to your museum and they always have a wonderful time. My 10 yr old is disabled, however, and we have run into several issues when we bring him. Often times, the hours after school that he is available to come are incredibly noisy and crowded, and this is very overwhelming for him on many levels (he is physically disabled, has sensory issues, PDD-NOS and ADD among other handicaps). (This visit, James would often be standing next to an exhibit with a) his hands over his ears or b) 3 and 4 yr old kids cutting in front of him because he was too nervous to say anything and the parent supervision was nil) Also, when he is playing with exhibits or activities geared toward younger ages (but appropriate for him mentally) he is often asked by other adults to step away or let the smaller children play, who obviously do not recognize that he is disabled. (this happened several times during Curious George by protective parents who looked disdainfully at James as he “hogged” a particular toy or display – by the third time I wanted to scream!*) In any case, this is sometimes upsetting to him and leaves me dragging him around the museum with little to do while his younger siblings get to have all of the fun.

I write a blog geared toward the NYC special needs community that has been growing over the past few months. Part of the site is dedicated to reviewing local activities, events and places that are enjoyable and appropriate for the special needs community. In an effort to be fair in my review of CMOM, I was wondering what you could tell me about any programs or special considerations you have given to disabled children that visit your museum.

Are there any hours set aside each month that give special access to disabled children?

Are there any classes or programs that are geared toward children with special needs – do classes in general accept children with disabilities?

Is there a discounted admission offered to families with special needs children who many not be able to stay for very long once they get into the museum and find out that it is too crowded for their child to play comfortably in any of the exhibits?

Is there a discounted rate for special needs playgroup reservations?

I would love to pass along any information you can share with me about your Accessibility Initiative, as well as any upcoming events that might be appropriate for special needs children. In the meantime, I plan to continue bringing my younger two children to enjoy your museum, and my older child when possible.

Response from David Rios, Manager of Community Outreach and Internships at CMOM:

I’m so happy to hear about your blog and your interests in CMOM’s efforts to welcome all families. At times the museum can feel overwhelming, but let me assure you that you are welcome to talk to our CMOM educators to see if there is anyway we can help in your visit. You may also ask for me as well.

CMOM makes an effort so that families and children can make the most of their experience in the Museum. One such effort was the development of the Guide for Families of Children with Disabilities. This guide was developed with an advisory board  to provide families with children with disabilities further opportunities for learning and development in PlayWorks™, as well as suggestions on bringing some of the dialogues and experiences home with them. The guide can be found in the PlayWorks™ exhibit in both English and Spanish. Families may also ask for a PDF copy such as the one I attached to this email.

CMOM, as you know, can get quite busy. In response , CMOM  has  decided to open on Mondays for the summer, providing an additional opportunity to come see our exhibits. While there is no set visitation pattern there are certain times when the museum is less busy.  For instance, we often tell families that we get our highest number of guests on rainy days. We also suggest coming during lunch time as many families leave the building between 11am and 2pm.  

We offer many programs for families to take part in on a regular basis and welcome all children to join. All of our family programs, guided tours, and enrollment classes are designed with a multisensory approach  aimed to address various learning styles. While we do not offer a discount to families with children with special needs, we offer discounted guided tours for schools or camp groups who may have children with disabilities.  

I hope my response addressed all your questions and I welcome you to email me with any further questions or concerns.

Hope to see you  at CMOM. All the best.

Let me start with the positives – David Rios was pleasant and responded within a week of my inquiry. He also provided me with a potential solution to the issues I mentioned: come during a less busy time, and gave me an example of a less busy time. Rios also sent a guide for disabled families for me to read and share. Click here for the attachment he mentioned in his email.

And of course, because I said “Let me start with the positives,” you knew where this was headed. I hate to say something negative about a place I frequent and that my children benefit from. Many of you know that I don’t walk around grumbling about all of the activities that James can’t participate in at local museums, but when you are coming up in search engines under “special needs children museum NYC” and when your own website says that you have made efforts to be accessible to all children, I have to admit that my expectations are slightly raised.

David Rios offered me a solution – come back during a less busy time, when it is not rainy – “many families leave the building between 11am and 2pm.” Well, that’s great, but as I mentioned my son is in school so that still does not provide any “slow” hours for him to come visit. I also think it’s kind of crummy that if you pay full admission (if you’re not a member) and your special needs child can’t handle the intense crowds and noise (you can’t always tell how crowded it is until you get further in), that you are not refunded or at least credited for another visit on a less crowded day.

Then there’s the guide. Click on it and look through it before reading this paragraph so that I don’t taint your opinion. It is very attractive and gives helpful things to ask about and do with your special needs child in the museum. You know the information and questions are for special needs children because there are pictures of special needs children in wheelchairs and leg braces throughout the guide. However, can anyone honestly tell me that the questions and activities wouldn’t also be totally appropriate for a typical child at the museum? Aside from the pictures, what is “special needs specific” about the guide for disabilities? Wouldn’t a more accurate description of this guide be “Guide For All Children Visiting CMOM (with photos of special needs children)?”

Man, I know that last paragraph sounds bitchy. I deleted and retyped a few sentences several times but in the end decided to leave it as is, because for now I am feeling more frustrated about the lack of accessibility and less worried about toe-stepping this evening (morning).

Come on, CMOM. You offer Target Free First Fridays every month from 5-8pm, free to anybody who wants to come and check out CMOM. Why not offer Special Hours for Special Kids from 5-8 on another night once a month (or 4 times a year!), and cap it to the first 100 disabled kids and their families to keep crowd-control down? It doesn’t even have to be free, I guarantee you will get eager special needs families vying for a spot in your museum during calm, quiet hours.

So if your child loves Curious George, definitely give CMOM a whirl. Despite my complaints there are actually lots of great things about CMOM – fun activities on every floor and a great little water exhibit outside.

If your special needs child loves Curious George, you might want to call ahead first and see what the crowd is like. On a sunny day. During lunch.

*Bold statements were not included in the original email

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