Subway Sleuths is an after-school program at the New York Transit Museum that uses a shared interest in trains among kids on the autism spectrum as a means to encourage peer-to-peer interaction and develop social skills and confidence through goal-oriented sessions. Using a strength-based approach, participants explore the Transit Museum’s decommissioned subway station home, solving transit mysteries, becoming transit experts and sharing that enthusiasm with others. By working in pairs as well as collaborating as a group, “Sleuths” practice different forms of social engagement. Each class is facilitated by a special education teacher and a speech-language pathologist, both trained in ASD support, and a Transit Museum educator.
How to Apply
Subway Sleuths group sizes are specifically left small so spaces are very limited. All interested candidates are screened to make sure that the accepted children show similar social and communication profiles. During a typical semester, 2nd and 3rd grade groups will take place on Wednesdays and Thursdays, and the 4th-5th grade group will meet on Saturday mornings. The semester is $350 for 10 sessions. Limited partial scholarships are available.
Applications for the spring semester of Subway Sleuths are currently closed.
Making Connections Through Transit
“People with autism show a fascination with transport systems because they can readily be ‘systemised’, either as a mechanical system or as a timetable system. People with autism have a mind that loves to systemise, that is, to detect regular patterns in the environment…. Subway Sleuths thus provides a terrific opportunity to tap into a strong interest in autism to help them learn and socialise in an autism-friendly context.”
– Dr. Simon Baron-Cohen, Professor of Developmental Psychopathology, University of Cambridge and Director, Autism Research Centre
1 in 68 children, and 1 in 42 boys, have Autism Spectrum Disorder, or “ASD.”
100% of Subway Sleuth parents reported that the program met or exceeded their expectations.
48% of Subway Sleuths received scholarships for the program.
22% of Subway Sleuths return for a second semester.
“Subway Sleuths is a wonderful program for kids on the spectrum. Because of this program my son has gained social skills which he would not otherwise have gained in school. He is able to connect with his peers in and outside of school and is more confident in communicating with others. I strongly recommend this program to parents who are looking for alternative and affordable programs for a child on the spectrum.”
– Zena Moore, Subway Sleuth Parent
The Transit Museum has developed resources to help visitors with autism and other developmental disabilities plan a successful visit to the Museum. These resources can be used by parents and educators and can serve as examples for other institutions hoping to improve their own accessibility. For more information, please email our Special Education and Access Coordinator.
On May 1, 2017, the New York Transit Museum hosted a forum to explore how to design positive and impactful programs for people living with autism spectrum disorder. The symposium sought to provide information and resources to help guests with autism and/or other developmental disabilities successfully engage with Arts & Culture at the Transit Museum and beyond. Each presentation was videotaped and footage from the symposium is now available for all.
To request more information, images and video footage, or interviews with the Sleuths or program directors, please email the Transit Museum Press Office.
Subway Sleuths was created with support from Autism Speaks and the Brooklyn Community Foundation. Ongoing support is provided by the FAR Fund, the Joseph LeRoy and Ann C. Warner Fund, the Meringoff Family Foundation, the Tiger Baron Foundation, and generous individual donors. Access programs at the New York Transit Museum are also supported by the New York City Department of Cultural Affairs in partnership with the City Council, and by the New York State Council on the Arts with the support of Governor Andrew M. Cuomo and the New York State Legislature.