What is the difference between Autism Friendly and Autism Certified Travel Locations
Vacations give you a nice break from the daily routine and responsibilities that can get monotonous and stressful over time. However, many parents with autistic children tend to avoid traveling very far from home when on vacation, due to the extra challenges they face. Children on the spectrum often have dietary restrictions and special sensory needs that make staying away from home difficult.
That’s unfortunate because a change of scenery can be great for the whole family and autism awareness is making it easier than ever to find a great vacation spot. Many facilities are recognizing the needs of families with autism and making changes to be more accommodating.
However, to ensure you’re choosing the right spot for your family getaway, you’ll need to understand the difference between autism-friendly compared to autism certified travel locations. First, let’s take a look at what it means to be an autism certified travel location.
Certified Travel Locations
The International Board of Credentialing and Continuing Education Standards or IBCCES created a certification program that provides knowledge and training to all types of travel facilities. This program teaches management and staff members on how to properly prepare and care for guests on the autism spectrum. When you choose a vacation spot that is a Certified Autism Center (CAC) or CAC travel destination, then you know they have met specific requirements to acquire that certification.
Before a travel resort, organization or other travel destination can call themselves a certified travel location, they must complete a systematic certification program created by the experts on the advisory board of the IBCCES.
The program requires all facilities to:
- Have staff dedicated to serving individuals in the autism spectrum
- Have at least 80 percent of the staff dealing directly with guests complete the training and be certified in the autism field
- Continue to meet and comply with the National Healthcare/Education Accreditation standards
Acquiring the CAC certification gives facilities the understanding needed to provide excellent care to individuals on the spectrum and their families. For more comprehensive training, facilities can complete the Advanced Certified Autism Center (ACAC) certification. First, the facility must complete the CAC certification program and then meet the following requirements.
All travel locations must:
- Complete at least 40 hours of training on autism
- Agree and make a commitment to continue their autism training since new information is always being discovered
- Have the ability to modify activities and provide special services for all guests with special needs regardless of where they fall on the spectrum
- Take steps to ensure the facility is up to date on procedures
- Make all necessary changes to the physical space and accommodations needed to ensure proper accessibility for all special needs guests
- Must agree to allow IBCCES professionals to conduct an onsite audit of the facility annually
Once a facility has acquired the CAC or the ACAC certification, they have a better understanding of autism and how it affects individuals differently. They’ll also receive information on how to create strategies that will help them accommodate their autistic guests better.
Autism Friendly Travel Locations
Autism-friendly destinations can mean a lot of different things. You must do your research, check reviews and ask lots of questions to find out what it actually means for each facility. Some vacation destinations make a real effort to accommodate your needs but others may not take the special needs autism requires as seriously as you would like.
The problem is that there are no specific standards in place or no requirements you must meet before you can call yourself an autism-friendly facility. Therefore, it means something different for every resort, theme park, and organization. An organization can say they’re autism-friendly simply because they made a donation to a non-profit organization but they may not know anything about caring for guests on the spectrum.
Here are some of the problems you may run into at travel destinations that simply say they are autism-friendly:
- The employees may not have enough if any training in dealing with individuals on the spectrum.
- Since most employees are not trained, they don’t understand what it means to be autistic. For example, they may not know that autism affects each individual differently.
- They may be surprised or even set back when they expect the person to behave a certain way and they react differently. They won’t know how to deal with these surprises properly whereas a trained staff member would know exactly what to do.
- The restaurants at the travel location may not be equipped to provide special foods to meet the dietary needs of their autistic guests.
As you can see, travel destinations that are simply autism-friendly may not be able to meet your family’s special needs.
However, facilities that are CAC or ACAC certified, stand out as an expert in the autism field. As more and more travel locations recognize the need to accommodate families with developmental disorders such as autism, your vacation options continue to grow.
Knowing the differences between these will help you when researching where to go on vacation with your family.