The National Building Museum in Washington, D.C. has a temporary exhibit called "The Beach". This exhibit encompasses both my childhood nightmares AND adult daydreams into one FANTASTIC package!
The description of the exhibit from the museum's website is below:
The National Building Museum presents a one-of-a-kind destination for visitors, an interactive architectural installation that brings the quintessential summer experience of going to the beach to downtown Washington, D.C. Spanning across the Museum’s Great Hall, the BEACH, created in partnership with Snarkitecture, will cover 10,000 square feet and include an “ocean” of nearly one million recyclable translucent plastic balls.
So...basically... IT'S A GIANT BALL PIT FOR KIDS AND ADULTS TO ENJOY!
As soon as I heard about this exhibit, I knew that it would be something that Sneak (my nonverbal 10 year old daughter with autism) could possibly enjoy. She also has Sensory Processing Disorder (SPD) which means that she is extremely sensitive to and has issues processing loud sounds, certain textures, smells, sights and tastes. In a nutshell – she’d either love it or hate it.
Deciding to go to the exhibit was the easy part, as I knew that my family would love it. Planning the actual visit is where the work came in!
Taking a person with autism out of their routine and placing them into a new environment AT THE SAME TIME has all possibilities of blowing up in your face - IF you aren’t prepared!
This was not “Just a trip to the museum” for us. Oh nooooo – I felt like I planned for a mini-vacation after all was said and done. Knowing my daughter and what she can / can’t handle, we often keep her at the forefront of our minds when planning family outings. Everyone else is able to adapt and go with the flow.
*I purchased our tickets to the exhibit online the day before our visit. I did this to avoid having to have her waiting in a long line the next morning.
*I also purchased the Metro farecards the day before our visit in order to avoid having to interrupt our walk from the car to the train the next morning.
*The night before, I packed all of Sneaks favorite snacks, a few small toys / books for her entertainment, bottles of water and a change of clothes into a backpack that I planned to take.
*Since we needed to wake up early for our museum visit the next day, I pre-made breakfast the night before – knowing that Sneak would be hungry sooner.
*The museum opens at 10 AM, and I heard that the lines became ridiculously long as the day progressed. Since Sneak doesn’t do so well with waiting in long lines, she, “Tap” (my 6 year old neorutypical daughter), “Lita” (my 13 year old niece) and I arrived to the museum a little after 9 AM to line up at the door. We were the very 1st patrons in line (I love it when a plan comes together). Being 1st in line and waiting at the end of a long line are two totally different things for Sneak. You can probably relate to that.
By the time we were standing at at the door, all of the planning above had paid off; Sneak had done so well with the morning up until that point! There was just one more thing that had me nervous: Would she love or hate the exhibit?
The GOOD news:
SHE LOVED the exhibit!
The BAD news:
She HATED the wristbands that we had to wear during the experience. (I can’t lie – I did as well. It's a sensory thing).
This exhibit was a SENSORY PARADISE for Sneak; and we all enjoyed it immensely! Once she was comfortable with the deepest part of the pit (3 feet) and the weight of the balls (hollow, lightweight plastic), she immediately started to sink herself to the bottom before jumping up to knock the balls off of her! We stayed in the pit for 4 hours! YES – 4 HOURS! We did take a few breaks for snacks, water and to REST! When you look at this pit, you assume that it’s something that you can easily maneuver through – but think again! It’s a workout to wade through and exit the pit once you are submerged from the waist down. I was also constantly pulling Tap up from the balls because she thought that she was “drowning”, tossing Sneak around, and tackling Lita. We were all winded - and slightly perspiring - as we exited the pit for mini breaks.
(Note: For all of the germophobes reading this, the pit is sanitized every night. If that weren’t the case, we would not have visited. I mean…can you just imagine…?)
Once I finally got the kids out of the pit, we toured a few of the other exhibits ("Scaling Washington", "Designing for Disaster" and "Investigating Where We Live"), which were all kid-friendly experiences. At the end of our trip, I promised to bring them back before the summer ends.
If you have a loved one with autism / SPD who also enjoys sensory driven activities – I HIGHLY RECOMMEND visiting this exhibit soon!
If you just want to be a kid again as you watch your loved ones have the time of their lives,
plan a trip to this museum!
You all will...
*wait for it*
HAVE A BALL!
For more information, you can visit nbm.org.
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