Autism affects many families in America. In fact, 1 in 54 children are diagnosed with autism. In our latest podcast, we talk about travel tips and information from the International Board of Credentialing and Continuing Educations Standards (IBCCES) for these families. This organization offers training and certifications to both travel professionals as well as destinations.
Autism Friendly Destinations
There are many locations that welcome guests with autism and have the designation of a Certified Autism Center or Advanced Certified Autism Center.
A Certified Autism Center (CAC) is a facility or organization in which at least 80% of their staff is highly trained, fully equipped and certified in the field of autism. A CAC can range in specific specialty areas such as educational facilities, healthcare and recreational. A CAC is primarily a facility or organization that has a dedication to serving individuals with autism and is committed to ongoing training in autism.
Some recommendations with this designation are Sea World Orlando, Discovery Cove, Aquatica Orlando, and Nickelodeon Hotels & Resorts Punta Cana.
Advanced Certified Autism Center (ACAC) level 2 certification was created by a board of industry experts including physicians, therapists, parents, travel executives, and individuals with autism and other cognitive disorders. The goal is to take the industry-leading CAC program to the next level and recognize organizations that are going above and beyond to prepare for guests with cognitive disorders.
Some recommendations with this designation are all three Beaches Resorts—Turks and Caicos, Ocho Rios, and Negril in Jamaica. This also includes their Padi Dive Center.
The Autism Travel Directory can be a great resource for these locations. You’ll also find many local, smaller locations as well an opportunity to recommend a business you think can benefit from this training.
Other honorable mentions are Disney Destinations and Universal Orlando that have their own programs in place to help guests with autism have a great experience. Royal Caribbean is also an autism-friendly cruise option. They have special services onboard for those with autism as well as down syndrome and other developmental disabilities.
Flying with Autism
In addition to preparing your child for what they may encounter during the flight and reading books and watching videos on the subject, there are resources available through TSA and airlines. TSA Cares is a great resource. A TSA Notification Card will be helpful. You can contact TSA Cares by phone 72 hours before your flight by calling 1-855-787-2227.
Lastly, once you have decided on an airline you can work directly with them for what you will need once onboard. For example, with Southwest you can contact them at 1-800-I-FLY-SWA after booking to discuss special assistance needs such as additional time to board the flight. If you have not called ahead, you should visit the attendant at the gate to discuss any concerns you have.
Autism Speaks has some great resources on their website as well.
Certified Autism Travel Professional
You may also want to work with a Certified Autism Travel Professional who has completed this specialist level training. A travel professional who has invested their time and money to be trained and learn more about how to best take care of their clients is certainly going to be compassionate and committed to your family having the best vacation.
Most importantly, you will partner with your travel professional. Your travel professional is the expert on the destination and you are the expert on your child. Your agent will provide options and as the parent you will decide what works best for your family. You can also share your pain points or concerns and the travel professional can offer options to help with that. We have several agents at our agency that have completed their Certified Autism Travel Professional Training.
We are here to help you plan your vacation. Contact us and let’s get started!