As any parent of a child with autism knows, going on vacation isn’t always a vacation. It means disrupting schedules and focusing on the needs of your child. Many times, countless hours are spent before the vacation begins, making plans and researching destinations. Your child might require a special diet, have difficulty in crowds or become agitated when faced with not knowing what to expect.
In the past several years, vacation destinations, and even movie theaters, are creating "autism friendly" venues and accommodations. Some of the organizations and destinations are:
Autism Adventure Travel offers cruise and land vacation packages for families and individuals. They can plan a custom vacation or you can join one of the group vacations, which includes specialists for ABA, speech and occupational therapists, and respite care. They provide dining reservations based on your needs, suggestions for autism-friendly activities and flashcards of the planned activities at your request.
A travel agency that works to customize a vacation based on your needs. They help plan the trip, locate autism-friendly resorts and cruises and take sensory issues, special interests and dietary needs into consideration. They plan for respite care, if needed. ASD Vacations takes the work out of planning your vacation.
Working with cruise lines, this company provides autism-friendly vacations with specialized staff to help make your vacation more relaxing.
Royal Caribbean has been designated "autism friendly." It is the first cruise line to officially be given this designation. It provides programs and amenities that follow guidelines provided by Autism on the Seas. The cruise line provides a social story picture book to introduce the cruise and let your child know what to expect. It also provides gluten-free and dairy-free menues as well as trained day-care, specialized programs and movie screenings with brighter lights and less strict about getting up and walking around during the movie.
Hotels in Florida: Crowne Plaza (Tampa Westshore), TradeWinds Island Resort (St. Pete Beach), Wyndham Hotel (Tampa Westshore)
These hotels have all been rated as autism-friendly by the Center for Autism and Related Disabilities (CARD). They provide social stories you can download before going to the hotel. In addition, if you are staying at one of these hotels, CARD also has a list of area restaurants, businesses and entertainment venues that are also designated autism-friendly.
Hotels in NJ: Clinton Inn Hotel
This hotel has redesigned one of its suites to cater to families with children with autism. The furniture has rounded corners, the decor cannot be moved and the door has an alarm to alert parents if a child wanders out. The suite was designed by Tony Morreale, the hotel manager and the parent of an autistic child.
As autism-friendly businesses grow, there will be more vacation destinations that cater to families dealing with autism. If you know of others, please post your suggestions.
Eileen Bailey is a freelance health writer. She is the author of What Went Right: Reframe Your Thinking for a Happier Now, Idiot’s Guide to Adult ADHD, Idiot’s Guide to Cognitive Behavioral Therapy, Essential Guide to Overcoming Obsessive Love, and Essential Guide to Asperger’s Syndrome. She can be found on Twitter @eileenmbailey and on Facebook at eileenmbailey.