As autism awareness increases around the globe, more and more public spaces are putting in the extra effort to become autism-friendly. Cafes, restaurants, grocery stores, movie theaters, cruise lines, airports, amusement parks, and even entire communities are pulling out all the stops to be accommodating to their visitors on the autism spectrum. And now there’s even a resort that’s hopping on the bandwagon with a host of new autism-friendly changes.
Travel has been an area of focus in the autism community for the last few years, and with good reason. Travel can often be very difficult for families with an autistic child, because individuals on the spectrum often don’t do well with change, crowds, and loud noises, which are inevitable parts of many vacations, particularly vacations to popular destinations. Too much stimulation or deviation from normal routines can cause a child to have a meltdown, which could end up ruining the trip, or at least the day, for the whole family.
In addition, venturing out in public with a child with autism can often mean dealing with strangers staring, pointing, or making rude comments when the child doesn’t act the way they expect. Because children with autism often struggle to communicate, engage in repetitive “stimming” behaviors, and may have other behavioral issues, it’s not uncommon for parents to be confronted about their “naughty” or “weird” children.
But some organizations are working to fix the struggles families face to go on vacation. Beaches Resorts has partnered with The International Board of Credentialing and Continuing Education Standards (IBCCES) and is now an advanced certified autism center. This certification extends to several properties, including Beaches Negril Beach Resort & Spa; Beaches Ocho Rios Spa, Golf, & Waterpark Resort; and Beaches Turks & Caicos Resort Villages & Spa.
You’ll notice Beaches Resorts’ autism friendliness before you even arrive, because one of the changes they’ve implemented is a pre-travel questionnaire to identify travelers’ special needs and accommodate them to the best of their ability. Guests can also schedule consultations with resort chefs to make special requests and discuss dietary restrictions.
Once families make it to the resort, they can skip the front desk entirely and go straight to their accommodations for an in-room check-in. Sensory-friendly toys are also available to help keep children busy and happy while parents deal with the details of payment and resort rules and amenities.
Beaches Resorts offer kids’ camp experiences and group childcare so that parents can have some time to themselves, so for families with autism, modified camp experiences and one-on-one childcare are also offered to meet each family’s specific needs. All childcare staff receives autism training to help them successfully interact with and protect children on the spectrum. This provides parents with peace of mind, knowing that their kids are happy and well cared for at all times.
Of course, there’s plenty of fun things for the kids to do even when they’re not at camp. For kiddos who are ready to hit the waves, there are water sports instructors who are trained in autism awareness. Throughout the resorts are designated quiet spaces for children to get away from the hustle and bustle of a busy resort when it all becomes a little too much.
Entertainment at Beaches Resorts has also gotten a little more autism-friendly. The Sesame Street lineup that traditionally performs for the children has a new addition—the autistic muppet named Julia—to make kids on the spectrum feel at home and help teach other children about neurodiversity and inclusion. Julia is also available for one-on-one interactions and activities.
Visit the Beaches Resorts website to learn more about what they can do to make your vacation more fun and memorable for the family. And of course, if you have any questions about the amenities and services available, autism-friendly special services representatives are just a phone call away.
We’re so glad that so many businesses are becoming more autism-friendly in an effort to make life easier for families who live with autism as part of their everyday lives. This is just one more step toward making the entire world an autism-friendly place!
Elizabeth Nelson is a wordsmith, an alumna of Aquinas College in Grand Rapids, a four-leaf-clover finder, and a grammar connoisseur. She has lived in west Michigan since age four but loves to travel to new (and old) places. In her free time, she. . . wait, what’s free time?