NC Maritime Museum renews Certified Autism Center designation


SOUTHPORT—The North Carolina Maritime Museum in Southport has reinstated its commitment to welcoming all visitors.

The museum has been a Certified Autism Center (CAC) since 2020, consistent in its work to educate and expand its accessibility and sensory-inclusive offering to appropriately assist people with autism and other sensory visitors.

Museum staff recently finalized requirements to extend its CAC designation through the International Board of Credentialing and Continuing Education Standards. Professional development and training in autism and related needs are key to program renewal.

Since Covid-19, the museum team has been working to create new digital outreach programs and virtual tours that include captions to stay involved in the community. When in-person visits were allowed again, low-sensory rooms were developed, along with ‘Admiral’s Quarters’ – an area where visitors need time alone to calm down and recover from overload sensory.

The CAC training and certification allowed the museum’s management to emphasize the need to continue its accessibility mission and contact local groups that support people with disabilities for more information.

Specific outreach included hosting student interns from the CFCC’s Occupational Therapy Assistant program. They have helped staff generate therapeutic teaching mechanisms, such as Pirate Walk (strengthens neuromusculoskeletal and body movement functions), Teaching Bins (improves motor, social and verbal skills and education on types of ships), Sensory Backpacks (filled with items like sunglasses and stuffed animals and lent to guests for a more comfortable visit if they get too stimulated), and Sensory Board (contains items who teach young students of different ages and abilities about museum exhibits).

The International Board of Credentialing and Continuing Education Standards (IBCCES) has been leading dementia training and certification for education, healthcare, and business professionals around the world for more than 20 years. IBCCES helped the museum create a special environment for its guests.

The museum organizes sensory Saturdays, the first Saturday of each month, from 9 a.m. to 11 a.m. Lights are dimmed and sound is muted throughout the museum. A craft event is also offered for more hands-on experiences.

More information about the museum’s CAC can be found here.

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