Port Discovery has been aware of and responsive to the needs of its visitors with special needs since opening in 1998. The original design of the Museum incorporates universal design principles, ensuring that children at different developmental levels can access each area. As the Museum develops new programs and exhibits, it remains committed to its role as a unique resource for the special needs community.

The Museum's exhibits and learning environments provide unique opportunities for children with special needs and their caregivers. All too often, families of children with special needs hesitate to bring their children into community settings such as museums, malls, grocery stores or even parks. They know their children may become overwhelmed by all the noise and activity and they fear that their children may not be able to take advantage of everything that is offered because they may be less mobile or unable to communicate their needs.

Port Discovery's exhibits support children (and their caregivers) as they experiment with environments that replicate real life settings. This hands-on learning prepares them for future experiences such as going to school, eating at a restaurant or visiting other educational and cultural institutions. 

Award-Winning Serial Programs for Children with Special Needs
Port Discovery Children's Museum is the proud recipient of the 2009 MetLife Foundation and Association of Children's Museums Promising Practice Award. Established in 1999, the award provides recognition and inspiration for children's museums to develop programs that are inclusive, meet community needs, encourage community partnerships and promote life-long learning. Port Discovery received the award for its community partnership with PACT: Helping Children with Special Needs, an affiliate of Kennedy Krieger Institute. This unique partnership provides high quality, experiential programming for families from under served communities that have children with special needs who often hesitate to visit community settings such as museums. By providing therapeutic services at Port Discovery, families of children with special needs enjoy the Museum and translate their experiences to other community venues. Port Discovery's partnership with PACT combines the best of what a children's museum and a social service organization have to offer.

"We've seen tremendous progress in the children and families who participated in these groups. This has opened up a whole new world for our families by discovering a great resource in Port Discovery. This partnership reinforced the need for children's museums throughout the country to implement innovative practices in serving children of all abilities and their families." - Audrey Leviton, Executive Director of PACT: Helping Children with Special Needs

To learn more about this award-winning program, click here.  

Discovery Days Series for Children with Special Needs

Each year six Discover Me Days and two Discovery Weeks, provide children with special needs and their caregivers an opportunity to explore the Museum in a modified environment. Lights and exhibit sounds are lowered to keep everyone at ease. Volitional visitors are asked to engage in quieter and calmer play.

Discovery Week runs for four consecutive days in November and May and hosts a maximum of 400 children and caregivers each day.

The six Discovery Me Days are designed for inclusion experiences. Children of all abilities can play, learn, and explore together in a safe and neutral environment. We cater to children with special needs operating from birth to a fifth grade level. Children with IEP’s qualify.

Click here for the Discovery Week Flyer
Click here for the Discovery Week Text Flyer

Click here for upcoming events and to learn more about these special programs.

Thank you to Port Discovery's Special Needs Program Partners:

  • PACT: Helping Children with Special Needs, an affiliate of Kennedy Krieger
  • Abilities Network/Project ACT
  • Astro Events
  • University of MD College Park
  • Walters Art Museum
  • National Federation of the Blind
  • Kennedy Krieger

Click Here for more information on our community arts project collaborations with artist Gilda Oliver and G.W. McMechen 177 school in Baltimore.

Wonders of Water