CARLOCK, Ill. (WMBD) — At times it can be hard for children on the spectrum to engage in certain activities, so a Carlock man is taking it upon himself to build a sensory museum for them. This museum is different — because instead of going to it, it comes to you.
Ryan Abbott’s son was diagnosed with autism. For the past 13 years, Abbott was driving his son to the St. Louis City Museum, giving him the chance to play with things that aren’t here in the Twin Cities. That is, until he had another idea.
“I thought, well, St. Louis is too far, so I thought I’d just build my own museum, and that’s pretty much how it started,” said Abbott.
He built, ‘The Pile of Ship mobile’, which he, at the very least, thought would interest his son. But before he knew it, it garnered the attention of thousands. He says in 2019 alone more than 3,000 kids both on the spectrum and not, were jumping on board.
“All the stuff my kid thrived on down in St. Louis, was basically put it in another museum,” he said. “It’s like hiding the medicine for your kids. The idea was take all the sensory stuff and hide in plain sight, but in stuff that they want to do anyway.”
Now Abbott has a new 26-foot enclosed trailer that is wheelchair accessible with dual air conditioning. Inside, kids can enjoy Legos, laser drawing and even a treehouse fort. He says, all in all, his newest masterpiece cost him over $70,000.
“Right now it’s all my own money,” he said. “It blows me away how many people have pitched in and supported me, you know some dude just outbuilding kid museums,” he said. “That (to me) is crazy, but it’s for a good cause.”
Abbott says he plans on building a couple more of these mobile sensory museums, with hopes of eventually opening his very own stationary sensory museum.