Sensory Sensitivities 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, with the HMNS at Sugar Land toggle supported by the Fort Bend Junior Service League.

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!

Haga click aquí para ver las tarjetas del vocabulario visual!

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!

Haga click aquí para el Planificador de exploración!

Sensory Backpacks

Check out our Sensory Backpacks, created and given to HMNS by Boy Scout Alex Hightower, at Museum Services! Just exchange a photo ID with the Team Member at the Museum Services desk in order to check out a backpack for your visit. When you are finished, you can drop the backpack off at the Museum Services desk and receive your photo ID back. 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.

Certified Autism Center

All HMNS locations have worked with The International Board of Credentialing and Continuing Education Standards (IBCCES), a global leader in online training and certification programs, to be designated as a Certified Autism Center™ (CAC). Our staff has completed training and certification in best practices when assisting individuals with autism. By undergoing additional autism-specific training, the goal is for our team to be better equipped to provide better service and experiences to all. Click to learn more about Certified Autism Center™

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. Sensory Backpacks, which include ear defenders, sunglasses, and fidgets, are available to check out with an ID at the Museum Services Desk, and Touch Carts with tactile specimens to explore will be available throughout the museum’s permanent exhibit halls.

2023 Sensory Friendly Events

Generously supported by The Stanford and Joan Alexander Family Fund

A museum volunteer assists a Roco event held at the museum.

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: | 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:

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

Special Exhibits Sound Light Tactile Notes

Cabinet of Curiosities Low Sound Low Light High Tactile Several items to touch.

Dreher Masterworks Medium Sound Medium Light Low Tactile Classical soundscape with purple lighting panels and chandeliers.

King Tut’s Tomb Discovery Experience Medium Sound Medium Light High Tactile Several loud videos and low lighting. Includes many opportunities to touch.

Key Low Low Medium Medium High High


This is made possible by support from the Stanford and Joan Alexander Family.

Sensory Friendly Events

2023 Event dates, generously supported by The Stanford and Joan Alexander Family Fund, are: April 29, 2023: 8:00 a.m. –…


Stay in the know.
Join our mailing list.