PADI and IBCCES Team Up to Help Dive Shops Better Serve People and Families with Special Needs

PADI and the International Board of Credentialing and Continuing Education Standards (IBCCES) announce a collaboration to bring the Certified Autism Center program to PADI Dive Centers and Resorts. The Certified Autism Center designation recognizes businesses trained in autism sensitivity and awareness, and which go above and beyond to better serve customers with autism and other cognitive disorders. The alliance will make IBCCES training and certification available to PADI Dive Centers and Resorts.

“Diving has frequently proven to be a transformative and healing experience for individuals with physical or emotional challenges and their families,” said Kristin Valette-Wirth, Chief Marketing Officer of PADI Worldwide. “We are honored to work together with dive centers and IBCCES to make it easier for individuals and families with special needs to find healing, share adventures and strengthen connections through diving.

Research has shown that engaging in stimulating experiences such as travel, animal interaction, outdoor play and water activities is therapeutic for children and individuals on the autism spectrum. With one in 59 children diagnosed with autism in the U.S., special needs travel is the fastest growing family travel segment. According to a recent study of 1,000 parents with a child on the spectrum, 87 percent would be more inclined to visit a dive center where staff are trained and certified in autism awareness.

“Water is a major attraction for most individuals with autism and we have had multiple requests from families who would like to experience diving. PADI is the industry leader in the diving world and the fact that they understand the needs of this growing market and stepped up to help connect them with dive centers is huge,” said Myron Pincomb, IBCCES Board Chairman.

PADI Dive Centers and Resorts who seek to earn the Certified Autism Center designation will work with IBCCES to train at least 80 percent of their customer-facing team members so they have the requisite knowledge, skills, temperament and expertise to interact with all families and children with special needs, specifically on the autism spectrum. Training takes place in the areas of sensory awareness, environment, communication, motor and social skills, program development and emotional awareness. The training must be taken every two years to maintain the certification.

PADI Dive Centers and Resorts who have already completed the IBCCES certification including Beaches Resorts, First Coast Divers and Atlantic Pro Divers, are realizing its benefits.

“We want every family to be able to enjoy the incredible Caribbean diving that Beaches Resorts offer daily,” said Michael Clarke, Sandals Resorts International’s Group Watersports Director. “Two years ago when we introduced Beaches autism-friendly resorts program, we became the first resort company in the world to be distinguished by IBCCES. Now, Beaches Resorts is proudly taking our commitment to inclusivity for families with children on the spectrum to the next level as an Advanced Certified Autism Center. Through our longstanding PADI partnership and a mutual collaboration with IBCCES, we’re ensuring that all our guests have the opportunity to experience our world class dive destinations.”

About PADI – The Way the World Learns to Dive®

PADI® (Professional Association of Diving Instructors®) is the world’s largest recreational diver training organization with more than 6,600 dive centers and resorts and 137,000 professional members worldwide. Celebrating industry leadership for over 50 years, PADI has remained dedicated to introducing new divers to the thrill of scuba diving and enhancing the skills of experienced divers. Issuing 1 million certifications each year, PADI makes underwater exploration, travel and adventure accessible to people around the world while maintaining the highest industry standards for dive training, safety and customer service. All PADI programs, from entry-level through professional-level training, fall under strict educational standards monitored for worldwide consistency and quality. Throughout its deep history, PADI has displayed a longstanding commitment to environmental conservation through its course offerings and alignment with organizations, such as the Project AWARE® Foundation. PADI is committed to supporting social and environmental efforts through its Pillars of ChangeSM, empowering divers with information to get involved with causes they care about in a tangible way. For more information, visit

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