This post is by Serena Selkin, Assistant Director, Grants.
In 2011, Autism Speaks gave a grant to the New York Transit Museum and it’s program for kids with ASD, “Subway Sleuths.” The Subway Sleuth Afterschool Program enthusiastically engages students on the spectrum in a topic most love: subways and trains. The NY Transit Museum’s unique location in a decommissioned subway station creates the perfect backdrop to teach vital social skills to spectrum youth. Participants are immersed in transportation while they develop, practice, and generalize social skills essential to leading successful, independent lives. Working in teams, participants use technology to create a power-point style final project. Along the way, they practice making and developing relationships, turn taking, social chat and motor control skills. Sessions are facilitated by a special needs educator and a speech-language pathologist both trained in ASD support, and a Transit Museum educator. The program uses children’s interest in transit to help them navigate social experiences with peers.
I visited this great program and saw the kids in action as they studied subway maps and then went down to the vintage trains that are open for exploration. Each participant took a turn in the game “I got the moves like…” by choosing unique, fun ways to lead the others in a line through a decommissioned subway from the 1950s. The moves ranged from a hedgehog to a runner getting to work on time! Subway Sleuths allows imaginations to run wild while learning vital social skills through the wonder of trains.