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Sensory Sensitives and Autism Spectrum Disorders


The following resources are available to any and all visitors with sensory sensitivities and/or Autism Spectrum Disorders. Use the resources below to prepare for your museum visit or use them while you’re here to create an individualized museum experience for you and your family.


Access HMNS App

You can also download our Access HMNS app to use before, during, or after your visit. Access HMNS has social guides, a customizable schedule, communication icons, games, a sensory map, and tips for your visit. Access HMNS is available for both Android and Apple devices. The Access HMNS App is presented by Texas Children’s Hospital and SPARK.

Visual Vocabulary
Use our Visual Vocabulary Cards to make visiting new spaces and transitioning between museum halls easier. You can also use these cards to create a visual schedule of your day at HMNS!

Sensory Guide
Our Sensory Guide provides you with information on which exhibits meet your or your child’s sensory needs, including noise levels, visual stimulation, and tactile components. Use this guide to plan your visit and decide which exhibit halls are appropriate for you and your family. You can also use this map to ensure your transitions and pathways between museum halls are appropriate for your or your child’s sensory needs.

HMNS Exploration Planner
Visit HMNS before you ever walk through the doors! Use our Exploration Planner  to let your child know what to expect during your day at the museum, from waiting in line at the box office to exploring our many exhibit halls. Let Dipsy the Diplodocus give you helpful tips on what to expect and look for along the way!

Sensory Backpacks

Check out our Sensory Backpacks, created and given to HMNS by Boy Scout Alex Hightower, at Museum Services! Just show the Team Member at the Museum Services desk your ID in order to check out a backpack for your visit. Our Sensory Backpacks include fidgets, stuffed animals, ear defenders, and sunglasses, among other things, to ensure that you have a comfortable, sensory-friendly visit with us.

Sensory Friendly Events

Three times a year, HMNS offers Sensory Friendly events where exhibits and venues are modified for those with sensory sensitivities. Exhibits and venues are modified to create a sensory neutral environment. The Burke Baker Planetarium and Wortham Giant Screen Theatre also offer modified 2D shows with house lights on and the volume reduced.


2018 Dates:

April 28, 2018, 8 a.m.–10 a.m.

September 15, 2018, 8 a.m.–10 a.m.

December 3, 2018, 9 a.m.–5 p.m.

Tickets for Sensory Friendly Events are the same price as regular operating hours. As always, HMNS members will receive free admission to the permanent exhibit halls and discounted admission to all special venues. Visit our membership page for more information on joining the HMNS member family.


Families affected by autism are also invited to a special on-site registration and data collection event for the SPARK Autism Research Study (Texas Children’s Hospital and Baylor College of Medicine). SPARK, the nation’s largest ever autism study, aims to uncover causes and treatments for autism by creating a community of over 50,000 individuals affected by autism, and their biological family members. Participating families will be asked to share basic medical and behavioral information, as well as provide a saliva DNA sample. The on-site registration event is a unique opportunity for families to receive personal assistance in completing the study forms as well as collecting the saliva DNA samples (space is limited).

Anyone interested in participating in the SPARK at HMNS is requested to RSVP with the SPARK team in advance: andrea.simon@bcm.edu | 832-824-3624. Those who RSVP will receive discounted tickets to the Houston Museum of Natural Science the day of the event.

For those who want to participate in the SPARK study, but can’t attend the on-site registration event, visit: www.SPARKforAutism.org/TexasChildrens.


Below is a Sensory Evaluation of our current Special Exhibits at the museum:

Special Exhibits Sound Light Tactile Notes
Cabinet of Curiosities       Several items to touch
Fabergé: Royal Gifts featuring the Trellis Egg Surprise       Bright cases and loud videos
Microsculpture
Death by Natural Causes
Sherlock Holmes Exhibition
Life in Stone
Curator’s Choice
Wildlife Photographer of the Year
Key Low  Medium  High 

Located Here
HMNS at Hermann Park

5555 Hermann Park Dr.
Houston,Texas 77030
(713) 639-4629


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The Houston Museum of Natural Science is a 501(c)(3) nonprofit organization that receives no federal or state funding. Tax ID # 74-1036131.