In the past, many informal learning institutions have not considered neurological differences as they planned learning experiences. Or, they have offered separate programming for autistic individuals to accommodate sensory or behavioral differences. There is a pressing need for new and more effective practices to support neurodivergent individuals’ participation in programs.

To address the limitations of previous approaches, EDC and the New York Hall of Science are collaborating on the Developing Guidelines for Neurodiversity-Affirming Engineering Programs in Museums and Science Centers project. This project will work to design and test guidelines that seek to foster a sense of belonging for neurodivergent individuals by prioritizing their full inclusion in informal learning spaces and by framing different ways of thinking as being inherently valuable to engineering and to society.

Key Activities

The project team is carrying out the following activities:

  • Partnering with autistic youth and their caregivers to iteratively codevelop and evaluate three informal engineering programs that are transferrable and adaptable across diverse museum sites
  • Providing professional learning opportunities to museum practitioners across the nation on how to include neurodivergent individuals in their programming
  • Conducting research on whether and how Universal Design for Learning (UDL)-based programs influence neurodiverse youth engagement in engineering design processes and whether and how UDL fosters a sense of belongingness for neurodiverse youth and their caregivers


  • Three informal engineering programs will be iteratively developed and refined at the New York Hall of Science in New York City; the Explora Science Center and Children’s Museum in Albuquerque, New Mexico; and the Children’s Museum of Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania
  • The project team will create the following materials:
    • A practitioner guidebook for creating neurodiversity-affirming programs in museums and science centers
    • Professional learning materials for museum educators
    • Descriptions of the three informal engineering programs as exemplars
    • Observation tools and other instruments to evaluate programs
    • Guidelines for using codesign processes to develop informal learning programs
  • The project team will widely disseminate through a community of practice hosted by the Association of Science and Technology Centers, as well as through journals, conferences, and networks for stakeholders in museums and science centers

Learn More

National Science Foundation

New York Hall of Science