Having worked in the museum world for so many years, and seen so many young kids thrive in that rather unusual environment, I've hoped that Tom could find a volunteer opportunity in such a setting. Of course, he's only 11 - so I hadn't pushed much so far. Besides, in Philadelphia most of the opportunities are at larger institutions which can have their pick of volunteers - and a preteen with autism isn't most people's idea of the ideal volunteer.
Here on Cape Cod, though, there are fewer kids - and quite a few scientific and naturalist organizations that run year round. I'd heard good things about a local nature center in Sandwich - and a few weeks ago, when I had a lot of deadlines to hit, I asked Peter to take Tom over to Sandwich to a little live animal show. Tom was the oldest homeschooler there (most were 3-7 years old), which made it perfect for him.
The naturalist introduced the group to Miss Prickles, a real hedgehog - and Tom immediately connected with her. He also met a few other small mammals, all of which he told me about eagerly when he got home.