As a follow up to our post in April about Autism Awareness Month, we have put together a list of the best autism and special-needs friendly vacation destinations and resorts. Some of the companies on our list have long been known as being special needs friendly, and some companies have only recently put together programs and provided training to their staff about how to address every vacationer's unique needs. If you have additions to our list - please do so in comments!
1. Disney Parks, Resorts and Cruises.
The Disney Company has been a favorite among special needs families as they have programs for special needs clients, such as Disability Access Service, special break areas, companion restrooms, and other accommodations. Their staff receives training to understands the unique needs of clients with autism.
2. Beaches Resorts
Beaches Resorts is a chain of beautiful all-inclusive resorts located in Jamaica and Turks & Caicos. Beaches is proud to be the first resort company in the world to complete the rigorous International Board of Credentialing and Continuing Education Standards (IBCCES) training and Autism Certification. Their Kids Camps and their staff offer families with children with autism and other special needs specialized service, engaging activities and custom dining options so that all families may enjoy a memorable, relaxing vacation.
3. Smuggler’s Notch Resort and their adaptive program
The Smugglers' Notch Resort is a family friendly vacation destination located in the beautiful mountains of Vermont. The Smugglers' Notch Adaptive Program is dedicated to providing therapeutic recreation for children and adults of all abilities in a supportive environment. Experiences are tailored to meet the needs and goals of each individual. The ratio of counselor to program guest is based on the individual needs of each person.
Depending on individual need, an inclusion program in the daily children's programs may be appropriate, offering the guest the opportunity to socialize with peers while still maintaining the support he or she needs through the adaptive program.
4. Myrtle Beach area (Sea Watch Resort, Comfort Inn at Surfside Beach, Ocean Creek Resort, Beach Cove Resort). The city of Myrtle Beach and many businesses in the area have joined the Champion Autism Network (CAN), which means that they have been trained to understand the needs of clients with autism. Travelers can obtain their CAN card upon arrival at designated locations, and show it at local businesses to discretely request special accommodations. Myrtle Beach has been working very hard to become one of the most accommodating destinations to special needs families, particularly those with autism. Myrtle Beach airport is equipped with quiet rooms and Myrtle Beach Area Chamber of Commerce—in conjunction with the Horry County Police Department—can administer Project Lifesaver GPS tracking bands.
5. Tradewinds Island Resorts on St. Pete Beach
In November of 2010, the Center for Autism and Related Disabilities (CARD) designated TradeWinds Island Resort as Autism Friendly after their employees underwent C.A.R.D’s training program, which taught staff how to better meet the needs of guests who have autism and their families. All resort food venues have gluten-free options, the resort provides “Safety Kit” that includes a hanging door alarm, and the resort kids club have special sensory-friendly activities geared towards kids with autism.
6. Royal Caribbean Cruise Lines Autism on the Seas certifies Royal Caribbean with an Autism Friendly Certification for their efforts to ensure their products and services are accessible for inclusion and participation by the autism and developmental disability community. Autism Friendly Certification includes achievement in up to seven areas, such as cruise line staff training, youth program services, pre-vacation planning and services, dining and dietary needs, disability accommodations, guest satisfaction and feedback, and support for “Cruises with Autism on the Seas Staff.” There are four levels of certification, each progressing with increased levels of staff training.