Date of Award

December 2018

Degree Type


Degree Name

Master of Science



First Advisor

William W Wood

Committee Members

Dawn Scher Thomae, Laura A Owens


Autism, Children's Museums, Universal Design for Learning


This study examined daily programming and inclusion efforts for children with Autism Spectrum Disorder (ASD) at a singular study site, a children’s museum located in a suburban community of Illinois. The purpose of this study was to identify, through survey, observation, and peer interviews the current accessibility barriers at the study site and suggest ways to prevent them through inclusive design strategies. Interviews with children’s museums around the country focused on how children’s museums may be able to expand their inclusion efforts to overcome these barriers including designing programming to provide inclusive experiences for children with ASD. These interviews championed the use of a variety of inclusion efforts including utilizing Universal Design for Learning Guidelines in program development and engaging community partners. Survey results showed that visitors to the site utilized these environments for leisure and supplementary educational opportunities. However, due to various barriers related to the Museum environment and characteristics of ASD, children with the disorder are not always able to have a positive experience. Observations conducted at the study site revealed that while the Museum offers many accessibility resources to visitors, its current daily programming is unsupportive of a neurodiverse audience. Outcomes from this study resulted in recommendations to improve the experiences of children with ASD at the study site by investing in staff training and resources, designing programs that comply with Universal Design for Learning Guidelines, and cultivating and maintaining community partnerships. In addition, strategies for measuring the effectiveness of these recommendations were identified. This, in turn, may be relevant and beneficial to ASD programming development and delivery at other museum sites around the country.