On Track: A Transit Museum Program for Autistic Children

February 8th, 2018 | by Dena Freidman

Photo: Transit Museum website

In addition to its wonderful collection of vintage trains, a little-known afterschool program at the New York Transit Museum is winning the hearts and minds of children with autism and their parents. Subway Sleuths, incorporates autistic children’s love of trains into an exciting adventure designed to encourage peer-to-peer interaction and the development of social skills and confidence through goal-oriented sessions.

As explained on the museum’s website, the program utilizes a strength-based approach, in which participants explore the Transit Museum’s decommissioned subway station home, solving transit mysteries, becoming transit experts, and sharing that enthusiasm with others. By working in pairs as well as collaborating as a group, the “sleuths” practice different forms of social engagement. Each class is facilitated by a special education teacher and a speech-language pathologist, both trained in ASD support, and a Transit Museum educator

The program was launched in 2011 in response to a growing number of visits by families with autistic children.  “We realized we should do something special for them,” said Regina Asborno, deputy director of the New York Transit Museum.

A parent quoted last year in a NEWYORK article on the award-winning program remarked how Subway Sleuths has been a transformative experience for her child.

“I saw a child I never really knew until this program came about,” she said.  “As soon as we step in the Transit Museum, he’s a different child — he’s happy, he’s motivated, he’s confident, he’s ready to do whatever he wants to do.”

Subway Sleuths serves children from second to fifth grade, and is offered twice a year, with three classes of six students a semester. Group sizes are small, so space is limited.


For application procedures and program costs, visit: http://www.nytransitmuseum.org/learn/subwaysleuths/.