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    Autism-Friendly Vacation Destinations: A Guide for Families

    Topics: Autism and Physical Spaces, Infant/Toddler (0-3), Elementary (4-12), Teen (13-17)

    A list of best resorts and theme parks serving families with children with ASD: from customized services and specialized camps for children with autism to front-of-the-line passes, vacations can be autism-friendly!

    Looking for a perfect vacation destination that offers special support for individuals with autism? Look no further! Family vacations are a MUST for the sake of bonding, learning, and creating meaningful memories together. Families deserve to find themselves lost in the joy of the perfect magical environment full of entertainment and relaxation. For families with children on the autism spectrum, the destination must hold qualities that honor and respect the unique sensory needs of their children from sound sensitivity to overcrowded environments and beyond. Finding that perfect destination has not always been easy, but with this Autism-Friendly Vacation Destination Guide for Families, the task just got easier! 

     

    Autism-friendly resorts

    We live in an amazing time in history where society is recognizing and respecting the uniqueness of children with disabilities. 

    For example, Beaches, all-inclusive resorts in the Caribbean, ensure each employee is trained in autism awareness with key strategies on respectful responses to unique autism behaviors. They have adopted the Sesame Street “See Amazing in All Children” autism initiative and put this into action by providing support at their pools and beaches, and even a Kids Camp which offers adaptive activities for children with disabilities. In this setting, families do not need to worry about judgement and instead can feel understood and simply focus on family fun. 

    family laughing at autism friendly beach resortSimilarly, the TradeWinds Island Resort in Florida has made efforts to attend to the needs of families with children on the autism spectrum receiving the designation of an autism-friendly business by the Center for Autism & Related Disabilities. These resorts provide things like baby-proofing kits with safety covers for electrical outlets, bumpers for sharp furniture corners and additional door locks for children who may wander in the middle of the night. These added securities make the relaxing feeling of a resort stay much more attainable. 

    At Diamond Resorts, with hundreds of branded and affiliated resorts in more than two dozen countries, timeshare and cruise events provide added support for individuals with autism. For example, a database is collected regarding each family’s needs and booking staff is then aware of these specific needs. So if a child fears elevators, the booking staff can choose a hotel room near the stairs, a room providing nearby access to restaurants or first floor lobby accommodations. Customer service from resorts that pay this much attention to each family’s needs is a sure way to know that happy memories will be created with minimized stress and maximized family fun and relaxation.

     

    Autism-friendly theme parks

    Perhaps a day trip is more of what your family is looking for. Many theme parks now provide environments that are more inclusive for children with autism. 

     

    Disney Parks

    No theme park commentary would be complete without the mention of the Happiest Place on Earth and the Disney parks just got happier! child with autism at disney landDisney has stepped up its inclusion efforts by providing several features to its accommodations for individuals with autism such as cast members at hotels and on rides which are trained to provide assistance for people with sensory needs such as light or sound sensitivity. Their Disability Access Service (called “DAS” for short) provides front-of-the-line access for groups accompanying individuals with autism and their guests (family or friends) to get front-of-the-line access to certain attractions in an effort to bypass the waiting time for long lines. To skip the long Guest Relations line to get the DAS, there is an option for using Guest Relations kiosks found inside the park as well. For even more information on what Disney has to offer individuals with autism, prior to your trip you can download the Guide for Cognitive Disabilities (including ASD) as well the Attraction Details for Guests with Cognitive Disabilities.

     

    Sesame Place

    Another great theme park vacation destination for individuals with autism is Sesame Place theme park in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania. sesame place philadelphia autism friendlyHere the “See Amazing in All Children'' autism initiative is put into action being the first theme park in the world with the Certified Autism Center designation. Sesame Place team members participate in specialized training providing skills in the area of autism behaviors, social skills, sensory awareness, motor skills, and emotional needs for individuals with disabilities. With rides, a water park, various performances featuring friendly characters, including Julia, a character with autism, families can enjoy a sense of welcome and non-judgment for their uniquely kindred identity of autism. The park even offers a complete guide for children with processing needs developed by the International Board of Credentialing and Continuing Education Standards (IBCCES). This amazing resource has been created to provide theme park information and support for guests with cognitive disabilities including those with autism.

     

    Great America 

    Great America is another option for individuals with autism as there are accommodation efforts being put into action to support families. Great six flags autism friendlyAmerica has two locations: Cedar Fair’s California’s Great America park in Santa Clara, CA, and Six Flags Great America near Chicago, IL. These parks provide support for families such as front-of-the-line access passes to avoid long waiting times and tracking wristbands to assist families with children who may wander or become lost. They also have created a Guest Assistance Guide to offer tips and information for navigating the park to ensure top-notch enjoyment for individuals with disabilities including autism. This guide can be downloaded ahead of time here or can be found in the guest services areas of the park.

     

    Legoland

    Legoland is another awesome theme park destination for individuals with autism. These parks are located internationally, and in California legoland autism friendlyand Florida as well. These parks have partnered with Autism Speaks to transform their parks into a more autism-friendly theme park environment. Kinesthetic sensory-stimulating activities are provided throughout the parks and designated “quiet rooms” are located throughout the parks to offer a break from the overwhelming stimuli of the theme park setting. Volunteers and staff receive specialized training in autism awareness, sensory sensitivity and families can get the Assisted Access pass offering front of the line passes. These can be obtained at the guest services desk.

     

    With so many options now available for accommodated vacation destinations for individuals with disabilities, including autism, you’ll be sure to find great experiences out there for your own family’s unique needs. So go get those plans made and bags packed; adventure awaits!

    Erin Beach

    Written by Erin Beach

    Erin Beach is a freelance writer from San Diego with a background as an Education Specialist for students with mild to moderate disabilities. She is a graduate of Western Governors University earning her Bachelor’s of Arts in Educational Studies and also a graduate of National University where she earned a Master’s of Science in Special Education: Mild-to-Moderate Disabilities. She has over a decade of experience in the field as an Education Specialist, Behavior Interventionist and also as a parent to two of her own children who have received specialized services for ADHD and speech. She works with Stages Learning Materials providing content to inspire and educate parents and educators alike.