New program at area children's museum helping children with autism

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LA CROSSE, WI (WEAU)--"A place like this that has a lot of noise, a lot of colors, and a lot of everything going on can be really overwhelming," said Children's Museum of La Crosse Executive Director Anne Snow.

Snow says it can be especially overwhelming for children with autism, a developmental disability that can make it difficult for people to communicate. So the museum teamed up with The Chileda Institute, an area organization that works with people with developmental disabilities, to create an, "Adventure Pack."

"The backpack has all sorts of tools that Chileda has come up with that are individualized for the different exhibits and for our museum," Snow said. "They’re choices, so a child makes a menu of what they want to do while they’re here and what they want to do on each floor, so there’s a plan.”

Snow says if children are more sensitive to sound, they can put on a pair of earmuffs to help.

Besides developing more adventure packs for area businesses, Chileda plans to help train employees on how to better interact with people with autism.

“Autism, and depending on what study you look at, right now you’re in the neighborhood of 1 in 110, to 1 in 90, so really 1% of our population as a whole are being diagnosed on the autism spectrum,” said Chileda's Director of Training Jonathan Zinniel.

That's why Zinniel says creating new ways to help people with autism, like in the form of an "Adventure Pack" is so important.

"We had another museum that visited us yesterday from Fond du Lac and they were very interested, like ‘Can we get the backpacks? Can we get the information?’” Snow said.

And Snow hopes more kids will be able to experience the museum and learn from all of the exhibits. She says anyone can use the Adventure Packs, but families who have a child with autism get priority.

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