NYC – A WHALE of a TIME at the AMERICAN MUSEUM of NATURAL HISTORY!

What can you do when the Ambassador of #Autism Tourism asks to go see a blue whale? Yes, that magnificent creation, gentle yet powerful, serene at times and full of energy. Well, since we can’t go to the Pacific to see real ones… Instinct kicks in and says, you better research all museums and find one that has a a 94-foot-long, 21,000-pound model of a blue whale suspended from the ceiling.

No worries. Our answers were quickly found at the American Museum of Natural History. Yes, that Museum where the movies “Night at the Museum” were filmed…

Believe it or not… At the Milstein Hall of Ocean Life we found such a wonder…  and it felt like life stopped for 5 minutes.

We could not stop looking. We wanted to touch it = we couldn’t! But that was OK, we were there so close to it. So immense. So incredible. So powerful.

An individual on the autism spectrum can have delights and obsessions that can be difficult to satisfy. In this case, I am more than relieved my daughter’s curiosity and dedicated interest has been appeased. She gets in encyclopedia mode and will share all the facts she knows about one of her favorites. Yes, the Blue Whale.

There are countless animals to see in this hall, we quickly glanced… but they did not matter as much as the blue whale.

To see my daughter sitting for a while, calm, at peace, admiring the size, the color, enjoying the calmness in the hall. I can only think she felt protected by the blue whale. It was her time, her moment and I let her be.

 

Before the blue whale — we saw the Butterflies exhibit — an enclosed space, very warm, full of incredibly beautiful butterflies, fluttering everywhere… One found my forehead to be a spot for rest!

This picture is so representative of what my child is and will continue to be. She is in constant chrysalis mode (a preparatory or transitional state), in eternal transformation, becoming a full of life and beautiful butterfly as the years pass. The diagnosis at this point does not limit me, the parent, to appreciate and savor the improvements and growth taking place. I am just a facilitator. I am acting on her clues and requests.

 

And now on to the secondary interest… DINOSAURS! All sizes, all shapes, all kinds… you can find them here… She was just interested in the bones. Identifying the ones she knows. Curious about some new ones.

More than anything… Hollywood has done an incredible job with their animated films — kids know what’s what, what they did, how they stayed safe, what they ate, etc. Thomais is one of those kids and she needs to share everything she knows.

If you have time — dedicate a lot of it to this floor — it is massive. Every bone has a purpose and meaning.

 

After all these wonders, I tried to take her to the Amazon 3D film and the Space Show — after enjoying the above, going up and down many stairs… Waiting in line for any kind of show was a NO NO… and this is where Warrior Mom mode steps in and logic rules.

I wanted to see the Amazon movie. I wanted to see the Space Show. She did not. The goal of the trip was fun not lessons on how to enjoy a vacation — yes, an individual on the autism spectrum may need this kind of explanation. It is not that they are not intelligent and they can’t learn. The fact is they cannot process that kind of information at certain times because they have never experienced it. So, we continued, found food and a needed break.

 

I must point out — the dedication and willingness from a young employee at the 12:30 Space Show – I explained to her my daughter would not take the elevator. She asked if she had vertigo, I said yes. She said wait a moment.

We waited and she opened a door and said follow me. Then I  tell her about Thomais’ diagnosis and what her needs are. She was so understanding and was beyond happy getting tired climbing the stairs with us. We climbed the stairs. She did not want to go in. We moved on!!! Our missions had been more than accomplished.

And this is the kind of experience that reaffirms my belief: We the parents make everything happen for our kids. All we have to do is open our mouths, be fair and try.

Did we see everything? NO…

Was it incredible? Super YES…

Do we want to go back? You bet…

I hope you can plan a similar trip and create new memories for your family. Seek quality of life in everything you do, it is needed.

BEST PRACTICES – to enhance the experience:

  1. Communicate with Museum personnel ahead of your trip – seek answers to all your questions. Example in our case: needed to know how accessible were the stairs/escalators! The website is incredibly helpful as well.
  2. Be ready to be patient — if your child cannot handle crowds, choose one area of the museum to enjoy and get there super early. You know how much and for how long the enjoyment will last!
  3. Enter the Museum underneath the main stairs on Central Park West at 79th Street (walk down the driveway)
  4. Ticket purchase/retrieval is a smooth process.
  5. Food — bring a lot of money or pack your lunch – the Food Court as expected is busy, if your child cannot handle the buzzing sound, it will be best to make alternative plans (bring noise canceling head phones or go out and eat, there are beautiful green areas and restaurants nearby).
  6. All the employees are incredibly helpful… from the simple to the complicated – you will get an answer…
  7. Do not forget to carry the basics that your child/adult will need!
  8. We had to drop off our suitcases nearby (we headed to the airport after our time at the Museum/Central Park). The magic of the Internet — there is a website VERTOE  – super easy to use in big cities, you write down the location where you’ll be and they’ll find the closest spot where you can drop off your suitcases for up to 8hrs. Affordable, practical and one less worry! We  found a store right behind the Museum on 79th St and Columbus Ave..

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

The Museum quickly responded to my request for information 1.5mths prior to our departure:

Every floor of the Museum is accessible via staircase. The staircases are wide, open staircases. The only exception is the Hayden Planetarium theater. This can be accessed via staircase; this is a large, but enclosed staircase. If you are seeing the Dark Universe space show, please arrive early, so one of our staff can escort you to the theater via the staircase.

The Discovery Room is a room in the museum that is made for hands on exploration and might be a good place for you to explore. Please see the link below for more information about the discovery room.

https://www.amnh.org/learn-teach/families/discovery-room

We offer a program called the Discovery Squad, on Saturday morning’s before hours. There will be a program on April 7th at 9:00am. You can read more about the program on our website.

https://www.amnh.org/plan-your-visit/accessibility-programs#autism

3/27 – The Museum has been so supportive and responsive — everything is organized with them –  the Ambassador of Autism Tourism has as much info. as she can have to make the  experience more than special.

 

DISCLOSURE: The museum gave us the tickets to enjoy our day. We did not ask, they offered. We are beyond thankful for the opportunity.