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Member Highlight: Joshua

When David Dorfman and Angelica (Angie) Govea Alvarez moved to Atlanta a year ago, they knew they wanted to find a children’s museum to visit with their son, Joshua. After about two weeks living in the city, they stumbled upon CMA and our mission – to change the world by sparking every child’s imagination, sense of discovery and learning through the power of play.

“[Joshua’s] clear joy on our first visit prompted us to become members immediately,” David and Angelica said. “As parents, we have learned first-hand that the developmental goals of a children’s museum truly foster the intended intellectual growth, learning and positive life-long interest in learning environments as museums.”

Upon joining the Museum, David and Angie discovered Sensory Friendly Saturday, our program for families with children on the autism spectrum or children with sensory processing disorders. Joshua has Autism Spectrum Disorder, or ASD, and Sensory Friendly Saturday provides a sensory modified setting, limited admission and sound and lighting adjustments for the attendees. 

“As parents of a special-needs child (ASD), we have learned that there is a common thread among children in the Autism Spectrum – specifically, extreme sensitivities to various surrounding stimuli that generally do not significantly affect either typically developing children or adults (the type of things that people can generally ‘filter out’,)” David and Angelica said. “For example: Joshua is highly sensitive to lighting intensity, background music both indoors and out, and many other types of noises and sounds that again, are typically ‘filtered out’ or at minimum ‘tolerated’ by people (crowd noises, traffic noises, industrial equipment).  These unwanted stimuli can make Joshua extremely distressed.

The Sensory Friendly Saturday program is geared to exactly these types of sensitivities by reduced lighting, muted sounds from various sources (i.e. the ‘musical note stairs’ to the 2nd level, no stage entertainment and no speaker announcements), as well as crowd reduction by limited capacity attendance. We feel these provisions are simply outstanding.  It is clear to us that it comforts Joshua and truly enhances his museum experience.” 

In January of 2019, Joshua began receiving ABA therapy through Dogwood Autism Services in Sandy Springs, and part of the therapy protocol for both the child and parent(s) is to have the therapist work with the family in community situations. David and Angie suggested that CMA would make for a therapeutic community outing, and Joshua’s BCBA, Emily Starr, agreed and began attending Sensory Friendly Saturday with Joshua’s family. 

David, Angie and Joshua’s story is a great example of communities working together to become more inclusive, and our goal at CMA is to ensure inclusion and accessibility for all people. 

Our pilot program, A Museum For All, is set to offer field trips to Fulton County Schools for children with special needs throughout the year, and Sensory Friendly Saturday takes place on the first Saturday of each month and every Saturday in April.