Click2Daily: Celebrating Autism Awareness Month

HOUSTON – The Children's Museum of Houston with all of its interactive exhibits and activities is the perfect playground for kids of all ages. But for children with autism, it can sometimes be overwhelming.

"On a regular day or a free day like Thursday, there could be a lot of meltdowns," said Vicky Jones.

Jones' 9-year-old daughter has Asperger syndrome and is considered high-functioning autistic, and her 5-year-old daughter was just diagnosed with a sensory processing disorder.

"Sometimes the environment is too crazy busy and then it causes anxiety attacks, panic attacks and then they don't want to participate," she said.

Monday, in celebration of Autism Awareness Month, the museum held a special private "Sensory Friendly Day" for children on the autism spectrum and their families.

"They get to come to the museum and experience the activities, special programming in a space they feel safe and comfortable," said Zulma Morales, who manages the special learning needs program at the museum.

"I had a good day," said 14-year-old Tyler Randy Garza.

The museum kept the event to just 200 people over five hours, lowered lights in exhibit rooms and played music at a lower level.

"We can modify everything to meet the needs of the sensory sensitive child," said Ingrid Moeller of The Harrison Center for Music Therapy.

"I've always loved the Children's Museum but it's always been so loud and now I get a quieter time and it's very fun and exciting," said 14-year-old Tori Rash.

The children and their families got up-close interaction with miniature therapy horses.

"They're really pretty and they're ponies and that's one of my favorite kinds of horses," said 9-year-old Jocelyn Jones.

They also took part movement lessons with Houston Ballet dancers, story time that included American Sign Language interpreters and even created art, led by a young man who himself is autistic.

"Find their talents, maybe they're watching too much TV maybe they want to be an actor someday or maybe doing what I did tearing paper and loving to  paint, maybe they want to be an artist like me.  Don't deny them," said Grant Manier.

Texas Children's Hospital also hosted a workshop called "Autism 101" for parents of newly diagnosed children.

Many wondering if it was something they did or didn't do that led to their child's autism.

"The reality is we don't know the cause. We know some things that are not the cause like vaccines, but we don't know the cause. So there's a lot of great research being done out there to identify the cause," said Dinah Godwin with the Meyer Center for Developmental Pediatrics at Texas Children's Hospital.

You can learn more about the hospital's groundbreaking research project here.

The Houston Museum of Natural Science will host a sensory friendly event Saturday, April 29 from 8 to 10 a.m. 

Follow reporter Syan Rhodes throughout the day on Facebook and Twitter.