Museum Butterflies And NHL’s Little Fan

For the second year in a row, we went to the Museum of Innovation and Science in Schenectady, NY to see their butterfly exhibit.  As with last year, NHL didn’t want to go into the butterfly house for fear of hurting them.  Eventually, he did go in and look around, but he was clearly nervous about being in there and wanted to leave ASAP.  (I’m proud of him for trying, though.)  As for JSL…


I’m not sure what species of butterfly this is.

This one got friendly and spent some time on my finger.


After the butterflies, we walked around the museum for awhile.  Honestly, the exhibits are ones we’ve already seen and done, but it has been awhile and the kids loved seeing them again.  My favorite moment came when NHL went to the drums.  Now, he plays the drums in school and is pretty good.  He has a pretty good musical ear and descent talent.  This drum machine has headphones that you put on so you can hear your drumming while everyone else hears just the light tapping of your sticks on the pads.  (Side note: We need one of these at our house NOW!!!)

As he’s drumming along, this other family is looking at an exhibit nearby when their little girl (who looked about one year old) looks at NHL.  She instantly becomes mesmerized by him and was just staring at everything he was doing.  I let NHL know that he had an audience and he offered the little girl his headphones so she could hear his drumming.  The girl’s father helped put them on her and NHL started drumming again.  The girl’s eyes seemed to glaze over as if she were trying to tune everything out but the beat that NHL was playing for her.  She had this big smile on her face, enjoying the private concert.

Then, NHL offered her the drum sticks.  The father helped her into the seat and showed her how to hold the sticks.  She tapped the stick on the pad and quickly understood that it made that noise.  As she started regularly tapping the drum, I remarked to the girl’s dad (just before NHL dragged me off to another exhibit) that it looked like he had a drummer-in-training.

I just loved how NHL handled the entire thing.  That drum exhibit is probably one of his favorites – especially since he loves playing real drums so much.  He was not only willing to give it up, but recognized the enjoyment that the girl got from watching him and decided to forgo part of his own experience so that she could enjoy it more.  Then, he gave up his very seat behind the drums so that the little girl could drum away herself.

There are those that stereotype people with Asperger’s as always self-centered and never caring about others.  This couldn’t be further from the truth.  I just love it when NHL takes that stereotype and smashes it to pieces – especially when he keeps a pretty good beat as he drums the stereotype away.

Asperger’s, Empathy, and Butterflies

butterflies-and-aspergersOne common misconception about people with Asperger’s Syndrome is that they lack empathy.  Due to their problems picking up on social cues, people with Asperger’s can have a hard time telling how other people think.  This can lead them to saying the wrong thing and seeming insensitive or acting in a manner that appears to be rude.  The difference between this behavior and someone who truly lacks empathy, though, is that, when it is pointed out to them, people with Asperger’s Syndrome will feel horrible about the pain they’ve caused.  This also will mean that people with Asperger’s Syndrome will often avoid social situations to prevent any hurt feelings.  In many ways, people with Asperger’s Syndrome might be said to have too much empathy.

This past weekend, we went to the Museum of Science and Technology in Schenectady.  We had tried to go the previous two weeks, but large crowds made it impossible.  This week, though, we made it in.  Our mission: To see their butterfly house.

As we walked in, the boys could hardly contain their excitement.  They protested when we decided to catch a planetarium show that was starting very soon.  Nothing was going to come between them and butterflies!

After the show, they all but ran back to the butterfly house.  Upon instruction by a staff member, they took off their coats to keep butterflies from sneaking out in their hoods or pockets.  The staff member also told them not to touch the butterflies or try to get them to land on their hands.  Not only could you hurt them, but butterflies taste with their feet.  The oils and soap on your hands could hurt them,

Suddenly, NHL was much more reluctant to go in.  All of his enthusiasm for seeing the butterflies had drained out of him and he was now strongly protesting about entering.  We got him in the butterfly house, but he refused to move.  He just stood in one spot near the door and yelled loudly that he was afraid and wanted to leave.  Finally, we let him go out of the door to the butterfly house to a hallway were we could clearly see him.

Once he was out of the butterfly house, NHL calmed down a lot. He had a lot of fun seeing the butterflies through the glass and spotting the different types. However, any attempt to get him back inside was met with the same sharp rise in anxiety and renewed refusal.

Later, I asked NHL why he was afraid.  He told me that he wasn’t afraid OF the butterflies, but of hurting them.  With butterflies flying around and landing on many different surfaces, every movement he made was risking hurting a butterfly.  It didn’t matter how much he would have enjoyed seeing the butterflies up close, his empathy towards the butterflies fueled his anxieties and prevented him from getting close.  Far from having a lack of empathy, NHL was suffering from an excess of it.

Reptiles Up Close at CMOST

This past weekend, JSL had a birthday party to attend.  While B and him went to the party, NHL and I stopped by CMOST for some fun of a different kind.  B had taken the boys there recently, but it had been awhile since I had gone.

NHL showed me the Molecularium show in the planetarium and he loved going to each station to learn more about nanotechnology.  Of course, while that was fun, the photographer in me loved the reptile room the most.

First, there was a box turtle that they were taking care of.


Unfortunately, the previous owner had fed it the wrong foods.  (Raw eggs and chicken are NOT turtle food!)  Thanks to this, the turtle had developmental problems.  For example, one of its rear feet would periodically get stuck in its shell.  NHL, sadly informed the staff member that he hoped the turtle would get better.  The staff member let NHL know that while it wouldn’t ever recover, they would take good care of it.

NHL wanted them to take out the boa constrictor so he could see it up close.  Unfortunately, they said they couldn’t do this.  It had just eaten and moving it now would risk the snake either throwing up its food (and risking starvation) or puncturing an internal organ.  So the snake stayed in its cage to digest its meal over the next few months.  I was able to shoot a photo of it from behind the glass as it finished off a nice, yummy mouse.


The leopard gecko kept staring at us from it’s log perch and we marveled both at its spots and its bumpy hide.


NHL loved the bearded dragon and begged me to take a photo of it.  (Quite impressive since he’s usually complaining that all the photos I take are slowing him down.)


Later, we sat down as a staff member explained to us about some species of animals that live all along the Hudson River from the beginnings in Lake Tear of the Clouds to its ending in New York Harbor.  She fed some trout that they have and we sat awestruck as they went nuts splashing around trying to get a scrap of food.  They do feed the trout regularly, of course, but the trout seem to go nuts anytime there’s food present.  If I didn’t know better, I’d say they just loved putting on a show.

The stars of the show were the turtles, of course.

First up was the box turtle.  We got some more information about it.  For example, box turtles are so named because not only can they retract into their shell, but they have a special hinge and muscle that pulls the shell shut over their head.  This closes them in (like a box) so that it is almost impossible for predators to eat them.

Of course, predators should think twice before eating them anyway.  Box turtles can eat many things, including mushrooms that are poisonous to any other animal.  The toxins build up in their system making them a not-so-pleasant treat.  Early settlers quickly found out that they got sick when they made turtle stew from box turtles.


By the way, the red eyes mean that this is a boy.  Girl box turtles have brown eyes.


After this was the Diamondback Terrapin.  This turtle is more aquatic and loves spending its time swimming through the water.  While they usually eat small fish, the three brothers that CMOST has were raised in captivity and don’t know how to catch their own food.

diamondback-terrapin2 diamondback-terrapin

Many questions were asked by everyone attending.  I wondered how long the turtles could hold their breath.  After all, while watching them swim, it didn’t seem like they regularly came up for air.  The staff member replied that it is a long time, but they really don’t know how long exactly.  They’ve noticed the turtles going underwater to sleep for a few hours.  Quite impressive little turtle.


NHL and I had a blast at CMOST and left knowing a lot more about reptiles than we did before.  I just love visiting places that are both fun and educational.

What is your favorite kind of reptile?

Notion of Motion at MiSci

We’ve gone to the Museum of Innovation and Science in Schenectady a few times already.  However, on Father’s Day, we headed back to see a new exhibit titled Notion of Motion.  Whereas the previous exhibit, illustrated how people see and how our eyes can be fooled by optical illusions, the current one dealt with how things move.

There were fans blowing silk flags, pendulums rocking back and forth, and sand on conveyer belts.  And, as with most exhibits in MiSci, there was plenty of opportunities for the boys to touch and experiment on their own.

Right when we walked in, there was a small machine with a circle of rope spinning around inside of it.  Appropriately enough, it was called a Rope Squirter.  The rope was sped up so much that it would go high in the air before coming back down and back into the machine.  By touching the rope, you could see how its motion was affected by your hands.

Further in, there was a big spinning disc.  You could place smaller discs, or balls on top to see how they moved.

There was also a gravity well.  Kids (or us adults as well) could roll small white balls to see how they react to gravity.

Everywhere we went, the boys got to touch and play, but they also got to learn a lot about how the world works and how things move.


Next up from MiSci is an exhibit about dinosaurs.  Given the previous two exhibits, I can’t wait to see this next one.

Have you ever gone to a museum where your kids were encouraged to touch the exhibits?

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