Tips on Navigating a Museum/Gallery Space with a Special Needs Child

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As a museum educator with a special needs child (SNC), it is no surprise that I am interested in museum access. During winter break I usually take my boys to at least one museum; a children’s museum or an art museum with programs for special needs children. This week, however, I veered off script.

For weeks I have been wanting to catch an art show at a nearby gallery. Although this art space was not ideal for my youngest son who is on the autism spectrum, I felt that my older son would benefit from this display as it was in line with what he was learning in school. But again, this was a regular gallery, a college art gallery, a gallery that has no provisions for a special needs child so do I dare take my sensory needy, touchy feely, restless child to this kind of gallery?

I bit the bullet and did it. But not without some planning. Here are my tips on how to to enjoy a “typical museum gallery” with a special needs child like mine:

1. Keep it local

It just so happened that the exhibit I wanted to view was in my borough, this worked out great for us. If you want to spend the day looking at art with your SNC, check out local galleries and museums. The commute is shorter, and should things go south, at least you will be close to home.

2. Call ahead of time

I was already aware of this particular gallery’s space and knew it would be a good choice for us. Calling ahead and inquiring about the gallery/museum’s physical layout and what they have to offer, cuts anxiety and helps you be prepared.

3. Choose a small gallery or museum

A smaller space might provide a sense of calm for your child and help you navigate the area better with him/her. It also gives you a sense of completion. This helped us this week during our visit. I got to see every single art work which made me feel quite accomplished.

4. Early is best

Arriving at your destination earlier in the day also provides a sense of calm as there will be less people, less distractions, and less sensory overload.

5. Put something in your child’s hands

My son loves to touch EVERYTHING and EVERYONE. That’s who he is. So if I take him to a place where there are objects begging to be touched, I better offer something that is as equally enticing. My son loves strings so I usually give him a string when we go out to keep his hands busy and keep him from biting himself, which is another issue. But you might also consider something textured, one of his own paintings, a sensory toy, anything that will keep his hands off the art work.

6. Plan to eat afterwards

If you managed to pull this off, it’s time to celebrate! I knew there was a pizza place located right across the street from the gallery so the plan was to eat there afterwards. Unfortunately I didn’t follow rule number three and by the time we left the gallery, it was well into lunch time and no seats available in the restaurant. If I would have followed my own advice, and left a little earlier, this would have worked, and been the icing on the cake. Instead, we ate at a place closer to home which turned out okay, thank God!

I hope some of these tips can help you enjoy art with your SNC even if the museum/gallery is not as accessible as you would hope. In less than ideal situations it’s always about finding a solution and enjoying time together with the ones you love.

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*Vintage post from 2016


On Having Nice Things When you Have a Special Needs Child

on having nice things

I love it! Looks like Kandinsky’s color studies – sorry for the dark photo

The other day, after having a blank wall for months, Jon came home with this beautiful work of art and said “we will try again.”

The last couple of paintings displayed in our living room were destroyed by Dan. He either broke the frames or peeled paper or paint (depending on the work’s medium) off of them. As a person who works in a museum, I felt physical pain when I saw this happen and resigned to not having any art work in the house. “I work in a museum, I can see art there”, I told myself.

The other day, a friend told me, “you must be someone who loves beautiful things.” Well, I do, but I know it’s difficult to keep them in tact in the house with Dan running and jumping everywhere. My house is pretty plain. I have no grand displays of art, picture frames, or beautiful objects.

When hubby brought this work to the house, it was like he was bringing a new baby home and I was hoping and praying my older child did not hurt it. Art IS my baby! Don’t hurt my baby! Dan needs to be taught.

I love my husband because he refuses to give up on us having a house filled with the things we love. For me it’s paintings and for him, fish tanks. He constantly asserts that we will not play down to his autism. “Autism shmautism”, he says, “he has to learn.” I have to learn too. With Dan, repetition is key, and I tend to give up too fast.

I’m grateful for his persistence. If art is my baby, I need it close to me. I don’t want to settle for visitation rights.

Now hubby wants us to get a dog…hold up man! One beautiful thing at a time.

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*This is a vintage post from 2016


No Place to Hide is the Only Place to Be


This goes along with my previous post about not “running away from the runway.”

I’ve said this before, you all know that Dan attracts A LOT of attention, and it’s not always positive. There’s no place to hide when I’m with him. He makes noises, flaps his hands, skips and jumps as we are “walking” to our destination. A simple excursion to CVS has to be planned. If I’m not centered and prayed up I can go gangsta on you If anyone says something stupid.

Okay maybe not “gangsta” but you will hear my mouth, if I don’t walk away crying first.

Last year,  we went to the Natural History Museum and on our way back on the train we met a man who started asking questions about Dan, the train was crowded, Dan was making noise and, of course, all eyes were on him. Long story short, our conversation led to a talk about God and I ended up inviting him to our church.

So, if that unwanted attention leads someone to God, then here I am Lord. No place to hide is indeed the only place to be.

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Don’t Run Away from the Runway


Normally, people are pretty cool with my Dan’s flapping and loud noises but I caught a couple of weird looks from people when we went out the other day.

I have to admit, I don’t always feel comfortable being on display this way. I want to share my creations, new items in my shop, my museum talks…my frailties, not so much. But because of Dan’s unique mannerisms, he has become my agent, so to speak. He draws people to me giving me opportunities to tell my story and point people to God, the source of my joy.

You are out on display for a reason, a deeper purpose. You just have to trust, show up, and strut your stuff, vulnerabilities and all. Don’t shy away from the attention. Tell your story. Don’t run away from the runway.

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Create Scripture-adorned Infinity Scarves at Abounding Grace Ministries this Wednesday!


“Let love and faithfulness never leave you; bind them around your neck… Proverbs 3:3.

As I mentioned earlier, I am so honored and excited to be working with Abounding Grace Ministries (NYC) as their Artist-in-Residence. Our first art activity will take place February 21, 6:30 to 8:30. I hope you can make it!

In the spirit of Lent, we will be adorning infinity scarves with scripture, inspirational quotes, and song lyrics. Space and materials are limited so, if you are interested in participating,  please comment below.

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Your Gift Will make Room for You: 2018 Artist in Residence at Abounding Grace Ministries


I am happy to announce that I am the 2018 Artist in Residence at Abounding Grace Ministries, a church in the Lower East Side pastored by my good friend, Louis Carlo.

I am super excited and grateful for the opportunity to continue exploring the intersection between faith and art, and also share my various narratives; artist, special needs mom, art historian, museum/art educator, entrepreneur, author, etc.

As I prepared for my introduction a month ago, I realized that through the various stages in my life, God consistently has made room for my art gift. I hope you know He can do it for you too!

No me sirve/It doesn’t serve me


I was trying on clothes the other day, clothes that someone gave me. They were mostly size four garments and most did not fit me. In a fit of exasperation I yelled “¡no me sirve!” In this context, no me sirve means “it does not fit me.” But the literal translation is it does not serve me.

And so I had an aha! moment. I was frustrated that the clothes didn’t fit me, that I was once a size four and I am not that anymore. But in reality, these size four clothes do not serve me, they don’t serve my body anymore. Sure I need to go to the gym and I need to eat better, but should I do that so I can fit into these clothes? Exercising and eating better are about serving my body, not about fitting into smaller clothes.

This got me thinking, What else is not serving me anymore? What am I trying to fit into that is simply not sirviendome (serving me)? Maybe the vision that God has for you is bigger than the one you are trying to squeeze your behind into. lol

Or maybe it’s the other way around. Maybe you are overwhelmed by everything you have to do to accomplish a mission, that perhaps, is too big for you or too big for you alone. Big clothes can overwhelm a body. Maybe it’s time to think smaller, in bite size pieces, to do less with more focus.

I think I am in the latter category. My time is limited and sometimes, in my desire to serve, I wear myself too thin and give too much in a way that does not serve me (or my family). Everything that I do, from creative entrepreneurship, ministry, my job, etc., it has to serve me/family in some way. I am letting that be the barometer this year.

Either way, when something is too big or too small for you, no sirve, it does not serve. Realizing this is the first step in getting rid of it.

As an artist…as a mom…in your spiritual life…what is not serving you anymore? God has a vision, a mission that is tailor made just for you. He will guide you to it if you simply ask him.

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New Blog for Girl Reconstructed!

happy new year

A lot has happened in 2017;

First,  I changed my shop name from Nelesc Designs to Nelarte. I have always known that ART is a big part of my identity. I make clothes and collages, I work in various museums talking about art, I lead art making workshops, and when I have time, I blog about the artist life.

In the last couple of years, in addition to running my shop, I have returned to my museum education career so I felt like my name should reflect that. So Nelesc Designs is now NELARTE. I also changed my name in most of my social media platforms. If you want to find me on Etsy search for I now have my refashion tutorials up there and plan to stock up in the new year.

In addition to returning to my museum/art teaching career, I also published and promoted my book, Girl Reconstructed: Crafting a Creative Business as a Special Needs Mom.

For a while, I have been wanting to have new conversations around God, art, motherhood, special needs, and creative entrepreneurship. Publishing my book was my contribution to this new conversation that I wanted to be part of.  How do we create around these contexts? At this point in my life, this dialogue  feels most authentic and I would love to hear from you as well. Together, we can learn from each other.

So I invite you into my life, through this blog at WordPress, as I juggle a museum job, creative entrepreneurship, art making, and special needs motherhood, all in the light of someone who strongly believes in God and his hand in it all. I will be keeping my old blog up for a while as a transfer some content to this one.

I am looking forward to sharing this   new phase of my business/life with you!

Happy New Year and may 2018 be a year full of creativity, hope and joy!