PhotoTravel can be tricky for families with children on the autism spectrum. Sensory, safety, and dietary restrictions can limit destination possibilities, but a new online resource can help families with children on the spectrum plan a sensory-friendly vacation.

With Autism Travel, families can find travel options that won’t be off-putting or overwhelming to individuals on the spectrum.

"Our goal with AutismTravel.com is to help the leading travel destinations in the world create safe, sensory-friendly certified travel options for parents and individuals on the spectrum," said Myron Pincomb of the International Board of Credentialing and Continuing Education Standards (IBCCES).

‘A spectrum of possibilities’

Autism Travel says it has “identified the perfect destinations, tools, and activities that are suitable for all families for a stress-free holiday experience.” All of the destinations listed on the website have incorporated modifications that can make the vacation experience a positive one for individuals with special needs.

Dr. Chris O’Shea, a parent of two children on the autism spectrum, said he previously struggled to travel with his family -- and he’s not alone. In a poll, 87% of parents who have a child with ASD said they simply don’t take vacations as a family.

But with AutismTravel.com, O’Shea says, “Now parents will know from the beginning that the resort staff is trained and willing to work with our children to create a positive vacation experience.”

Beaches Resorts was the first travel destination to complete autism training and certification. Each of the resort’s Kid’s Camps now meets Certified Autism Center (CAC) requirements.

Travel tips

While choosing a sensory-friendly vacation destination is a good first step in ensuring your trip goes smoothly, the experts at Autism Speaks have a few other tips for traveling with a child on the spectrum.

  • Simulate the vacation before leaving. “Prior to leaving, the key is to simulate the vacation as closely as possible in as many ways as possible,” said Daniel Openden, clinical services director of the Southwest Autism Research and Resource Center in Phoenix.
  • Do a practice run. If you will be traveling by plane, take some time to do a practice run before travel day arrives -- especially if your child has never flown before.
  • Bring identification. For safety purposes, be sure to bring identification for your child to wear. “You can pin it to the back of his shirt or attach it to his shoelaces if he is the kind of child who won't tolerate wearing it,” said Dr. Sandra Harris, executive director of Rutgers University's Douglass Developmental Disabilities Center. “Include the child's name and diagnosis and your cell number and anything that a person might need to keep him safe and calm until you are reunited,” she added.

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