Like many children with autism spectrum disorders, Ravi is fascinated by trains and buses, entranced by their motion and predictability. And for years, these children crowded the exhibitions of the modest New York Transit Museum, chattering about schedules and engine components and old subway maps.
“This is really their element,” said Ravi’s mother, Juliana Boehm, who brings Ravi and Oliver, his 8-year-old brother, who is also on the autism spectrum, to the museum almost weekly. “If I suggested another activity,” she added, “it may have provoked anxiety.”
Now, the museum, and others like it, are moving beyond accommodating the enthusiasm for trains and buses among children with autism and trying to use it to teach them how to connect with other people — and the world. [...]