Southport Maritime Museum is state’s first certified autism center

North Carolina

SOUTHPORT, N.C. (WNCT) The North Carolina Maritime Museum at Southport is the state’s first Certified Autism Center.

Museum staff and volunteers completed the International Board of Credentialing and Continuing Education Standards comprehensive training and certification process to earn the Certified Autism Center designation for the site.

North Carolina Maritime Museums Director Joseph Schwarzer Jr. says, ” This is a remarkable achievement for the North Carolina Maritime Museum at Southport and its entire staff. I couldn’t be prouder.”

Museum staff focused on identifying areas that, due to a variety of reasons, could make visitors feel uncomfortable and addressing that.

Through training and collaboration as a team, they developed methods for de-escalating situations and providing a safe, welcoming, comfortable and accepting environment for all.

“We’ve done a lot of work with the special needs population in our part of North Carolina,” the museum’s Education Curator Katy Menne said. “We wanted to take that to the next level.”

The museum implemented a monthly Sensory Saturdays, a program designed for those on the spectrum.

The free program is offered the first Saturday of each month from 9 to 11 a.m. at the museum, located at 204 E. Moore St. in downtown Southport.

During that time, the lights are dimmed, and the audio throughout the museum is turned off.

The monthly drop-in program also features a craft to incorporate more hands-on experiences. Volunteers and staff are available to assist as much — or as little — as needed.

Those who are less sensitive to external stimuli are, of course, also welcome to participate.

Museum staff just asks that they use quiet voices and be mindful of the other patrons during Sensory Saturdays.

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