Stepping Stones Breaks Down Barriers with 'My Ability' Workshops for Families

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Workshops are held in two-hour sessions during Accessibility Day and Accessibility Afternoons.

In addition to free monthly Accessibility Days and Accessibility Afternoons, Stepping Stones offers My Ability sensory-friendly workshops for families of children with special needs.

"The 'My Ability' workshop is yet another resource to enrich the lives of the children we serve."

Since her son was diagnosed with autism eight years ago, Dina Guevara has cherished Accessibility Days at Stepping Stones Museum for Children. The monthly event has always provided FREE admission to families of children with special needs so that they can have an opportunity to enjoy the museum’s exhibits, mingle with other families and learn with their child. Now, as a member of the education staff at Stepping Stones, Guevara has created a new workshop called "My Ability."

The free two-hour "My Ability" workshop for special needs visitors and their families is offered twice a month, once during Accessibility Afternoons, which are held every third Thursday of the month, and again on Accessibility Day, which is held every third Sunday. "My Ability" is designed to be a sensory-friendly, safe and welcoming experience. Participants are invited to engage in sensory activities, gross motor play, fine motor play, self-guided projects and socialization with other participants. Parents and caregivers can also explore and share resources. Since launching in January of last year, the workshop has offered:

  •          Sensory activities
  •          Gross motor play
  •          Fine motor skills
  •          Self-guided activities
  •          Child-directed activities
  •          Facilitated experiences
  •          Socialization
  •          Parent resources and information

Families benefit from having a closed door area in which their child with special needs can just be his or herself. Additionally, the program allows siblings and others to engage with one another and participate in the activities at their own pace. This is particularly valuable since children with different abilities are not often given the opportunity to interact with their peers.

"I see the positive impact of 'My Ability' every time I facilitate the workshop," notes Guevara. "Parents are given a quiet opportunity to talk with other parents in similar situations. The exchange of information is expressive and heartwarming. The family members understand that the workshop is a safe haven for sharing."

To further enhance their visit, the museum provides families with an accessibility toolkit upon request at the Welcome Desk. The toolkit contains fidget toys, a weighted vest, and noise-canceling headphones.

"Our Open Arms Accessibility Initiative continuously breaks down barriers to ensure every child can experience a day filled with laughter, exploration and play," explains Rhonda Kiest, President and CEO of Stepping Stones Museum for Children. "The My Ability program is yet another resource to enrich the lives of the children we serve."

Kiest notes that museum staff is trained in Universal Design, a best practice in designing and providing programs and environments that are usable to every visitor, regardless of age, ability or situation.

Guevara is grateful to the museum’s Visitor Experience teams and Play Explorers who have shown a great deal of support for her workshops.

"They have assisted and interacted with the participants, wanting to learn how to establish a rapport with the children and their families," she said. "Presently, we are all working to broaden the accessibility programming at the museum. We are exploring evening and weekend events, larger accessibility toolboxes, additional school programs and tours, and more interactive website information for prospective special needs visitors."

Parents are invited to attend free informational seminars offered during Accessibility Days that are held on the third Sunday of each month:

Special Needs Financial Planning - 11 a.m. and noon Sunday, March 18
Stephen Ehrens, CPA and Financial Advisor at Northwestern Mutual, is a family financial planner who specializes in helping families with children that have special needs prepare for their future.

Building Your Child’s Language Skills - 11 a.m. Sunday, April 15
Rebecca Eisenberg MS, CCC-SLP, a certified speech pathologist and special needs advocate, will launch her book "My Second Year of Kindergarten" and offer tips to facilitate language and learning when reading aloud.

Stepping Stones Museum for Children in Norwalk, CT, is an award-winning, private, non-profit 501(c)(3) children’s museum committed to broadening and enriching the lives of children and families. Located on five acres in Mathews Park, the LEED Gold certified museum encompasses five hands-on galleries, state-of-the-art Multimedia Gallery, Family and Teacher Resource Center, cafe and retail store.

Stepping Stones is located at 303 West Avenue, Norwalk, CT, exit 14 North and 15 South off I-95. Museum hours are from 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. from Memorial Day through Labor Day, and from 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. Tuesday – Sunday and select holiday Mondays from Labor Day through Memorial Day. Admission is $15 for adults and children and $10 for seniors. Children under 1 are free. To learn more, visit

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Alisa Picerno
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