Building Capacity for Inclusive Informal STEM Learning Opportunities for People with ASD

Phases 1 & 2

The number of individuals and families dealing with Autism Spectrum Disorder (ASD) is increasing every year, and many museums, zoos, and other free-choice learning spaces are developing specialized programs for individuals with ASD individually and locally. A coordinated effort that builds on the learning from one organization to another is sorely lacking. This Innovations in Development project saught to strengthen Informal STEM Education (ISE) providers’ ability to engage individuals with ASD in mainstream projects and exhibits and promote more inclusive environments. This project was Phase I of a planned longer-term effort and engaged four Arizona museums in a research-based design study aimed at developing and implementing customized PD programs and evidence-based changes at their institutions. The Southwest Autism Research & Resource Center (SARRC), which has a strong history of providing extensive, customized training in formal and home settings, provided the ASD training.

Building on the training, the partner museums launched new approaches and programs, applying new skills in formative evaluation, and developed internal training programs. They were also the founding organizations for a Community of Practice (CoP) aimed at sharing best practices and promoting broader engagement among the FCL community.


Partners in this endeavor were the SciTech Institute, Dr. J Babendure, Co-PI; The Southwest Autism Research & Resource Center, Dr. C. Smith, Co-PI; The Arizona Museum of Natural Historythe i.d.e.a. MuseumPueblo Grande Museum, and the Arizona Science Center.


Project Team: Judith Koke, Dr. Monae VerbekeNicole Claudio, and Jeremy Babendure, Ph.D.


Click to enlarge the  Building Capacity Poster.