First Space Center in the World to Earn Certified Autism Center Designation
Space Center Houston is the first space center in the world to become a Certified Autism Center (CAC). The designation, given by the International Board of Credentialing and Continuing Education Standards (IBCCES), is awarded to organizations who have completed a professional training and review process with the goal to better serve individuals with autism and other sensory needs.
“Science, technology, engineering and mathematics education is for everyone,” said William T. Harris, the center’s president and CEO. “This certification highlights our dedication to be inclusive and to inspire the next generation of problem solvers.”
The certification process involves training for staff, inspections and improvements that enable Space Center Houston to better welcome and accommodate guests with ASD and other sensory and cognitive needs. Earning the Certified Autism Center designation also includes a commitment to maintain that training and provide the best guest experience possible.
“This is who we are,” said Williams. “We are a values-based organization and we’ve incorporated accessibility and inclusion into the very fabric of Space Center Houston as part of our way forward.”
“We’re thrilled to work with such an amazing organization that can impact the lives of so many. Space Center Houston has gone above and beyond to show its commitment to serving those on the spectrum and what they offer is so important for those individuals,” said Myron Pincomb, IBCCES Board Chairman.
The Space Center Houston goes beyond meeting ADA requirements and the Certified Autism Center designation is the latest example. In 2016, Space Center Houston hired Stephanie McMahon, a special education certified teacher and mother to a child with autism, as a senior lead instructor in its Education Department. The center named McMahon as their accessibility and inclusion coordinator in 2017.
The center offers “Sensory Friendly Evenings,” with reduced lights, sounds and crowds as well as Space Center University for the visually impaired and other events designed to provide quality learning experiences for guests with special needs. McMahon also noted the center’s development of the “Stellar Explorer Guide” that individuals and school groups can use to prepare guests with autism for an upcoming visit and “Vocabulary Cards” for non- or low-verbal guests that can help with transitions and timelines.
“Beyond special events, we take great pride in welcoming guests with special needs every day,” McMahon said. “We offer sensory-friendly backpacks, which have sound-canceling headphones, sunglasses, a fun space book and other sensory items. This is an exciting time at Space Center Houston. We have a proud history of welcoming anyone interested in science and space exploration and we are working hard every day to improve on that legacy.”
Space Center Houston will be listed on AutismTravel.org with other CACs, as well as on AutismMember.org, a partnership between IBCCES and Autism Society to connect families and individuals with businesses and resources committed to serving individuals on the spectrum.