TERRE HAUTE —
Nine-year-old Zackary Montgomery made the most of his time at the Terre Haute Children’s Museum late Thursday afternoon.
He rode a play horse. Then he got into a tractor in the agricultural exhibit area, where he pushed a button that made it sound as though he was farming the fields.
Next, he used a Bernoulli Blower, in which a ball floats on a stream of air.
Whenever a stranger approached, Zackary took his dad by the hand and went to another exhibit.
The 9-year-old has autism, and he and his family were able to visit the museum for free, thanks to a cooperative effort involving Bridges of Indiana, Child Adult Resource Services (CARS) and the museum.
The program, called “Exceptional Explorations,” is for those with disabilities and their families. Bridges and CARS pick up the cost for families, who are asked to register.
It’s the second year for the program, which typically is offered about every other month when the museum is not busy.
The Montgomerys take advantage of the program every time it’s offered. Zackary “loves it,” said his dad, Trevor. Also attending was the boy’s mother, Jodi, and brother, Timothy, 10.
“It’s a chance for them to have their hands on all the exhibits,” Trevor Montgomery said. “We pretty much let them run free and they have a ball.”
It’s important to take Zackary when the museum is quieter, said his mom, Jodi Montgomery. Otherwise, “you get the look,” she said.
Those unfamiliar with his disability don’t understand why her son might be screaming or banging his head, she said.
But during “Exceptional Explorations,” those attending know what to expect and understand. And the price is right. “It’s free. You can’t beat that,” she said.
The family appreciates the opportunity to enjoy the museum at no cost. “We have a really hard life with an autistic child,” she said. “It’s nice Timothy can come, too, and have a good time.”
Because of his younger brother’s disability, Timothy doesn’t get to do a lot of things with Zackary that siblings in other families get to do, Jodi Montgomery said.
Also at the museum Thursday was Mary Jenkins, who brought her daughter, Sonja Richardson, and granddaughter, Mackenzie Adams.
It was Jenkins’ first trip to the museum. “We’re really thankful for this program,” she said. “We’ll really get a lot of fun out of it.”
With it being close to Halloween, the girls wore costumes, and Sonja was dressed as a blossom fairy. “I like everything about it [museum]. It’s so cool and fun,” said the 10-year-old. “There’s lots of things to do.”
Mackenzie used the bubble ring to enclose herself in a giant bubble, and then blew on it until it burst.
Angie Taylor, Bridges service coordinator, said, the agency is “glad we’re able to provide an activity for the children who have disabilities, to come and spend some time at the museum and explore the exhibits.”
Lynn Hughes, museum executive director, described Exceptional Explorations as “really a wonderful partnership. We’re always looking for new ways to partner with different groups.”
The museum works with Bridges, and if there is a family with some type of special need, the museum tries to accommodate that, Hughes said.
Sue Loughlin can be reached at (812) 231-4235 or firstname.lastname@example.org
• For more information about Bridges of Indiana, go to www.bridgesofindiana.com.
• For more information about Child Adult Resource Services, visit www.cars-services.org.
• For information about the Terre Haute Children’s Museum, go to www.thchildrens