Autism friendly can just mean that an organization has made a donation to a local non-profit; a Certified Autism Center means that at least 80% of guest facing staff has received autism training as just one of the requirements.
In 2018, the CDC reported that 1 in every 59 children are diagnosed with autism. Despite this disability reaching far and wide, it’s extremely unique to each individual due to operating on a spectrum.
This can make traveling of any kind very difficult for families who have children with autism.
What Does “Autism Friendly” Actually Mean?
Usually, not much. While there are some organizations that make an effort, there are no set standards.
It means something different to each organization with regard to their dedication to serving individuals with autism and their families, which is a huge part of the problem.
Though many travel destinations across the globe claim to be “autism friendly”, in reality they are not properly trained and prepared to accommodate individuals on the spectrum. Not only does this create a major problem for families wanting to travel, but travel destinations are losing out on a big opportunity to serve this rapidly growing market.
They may not even understand perhaps the most important part about understanding autism: that every person with autism is different. The one thing they have in common is they experience the world differently than a nuerotypical individual. This generally has an effect on social interaction and sensory perception, but the degree that a person is affected in each area (and even with different senses) varies significantly from person to person.
This is why it is so important to be properly informed about autism and other cognitive disorders. A staff that doesn’t understand the differences on the autism spectrum might be surprised by the inconsistency of behavior across different individuals on the spectrum, but someone who is properly trained will know that this is what should be expected.
It’s no longer enough to be “autism friendly”. The future of travel needs to become autism certified in order to create positive, safe travel experiences for individuals who have autism and their families.
Autism Friendly Losing Credibility in Public Perception Due to Common Misuse
“Autism friendly” is a term that many organizations and travel destinations use in order to appeal to the large population of people who have autism. However, the term carries very little weight and hardly any credibility when it comes to being properly trained in the disability.
Over 1,000 parents were surveyed and 97% of them stated that an organization claiming to be “autism friendly” no longer means anything.
Parents want and need more for their families.
What is Autism Certified?
IBCCES realized how important it was for families to have autism certified travel destinations that they could trust and feel good about. Everyone deserves to travel after all! Research has proven that taking part in stimulating activities such as travel, water interaction and animal interaction can be very therapeutic for those with autism.
The IBCCES Certified Autism Center (CAC) program makes these opportunities possible for families by training and equipping travel destinations so that they can become experts in autism in order to provide appropriate care for their guests who are on the autism spectrum.
What it Takes to be a Certified Autism Center
In order for an organization to become a CAC, IBCCES has created a systematic certification program that was developed by its advisory board of experts. The certification process requires that CACs must dedicate themselves to serve individuals with autism, be committed to ongoing training and development and at least 80% of their staff has to undergo the training. The CAC certification equips traveling destinations with a deeper understanding of autism and how it works along with the latest research and a plethora of strategies they can implement in their facilities immediately so they can accommodate guests with autism.
Advanced Certified Autism Center Certification Requirements
IBCCES also offers an Advanced Certified Autism Center (ACAC) program that can be completed once an organization is already a CAC. To become an ACAC the existing CAC must meet the following requirements:
- Must be dedicated to serving individuals with autism and their families
- Leadership and high contact staff must have a minimum of 40 hours of autism training
- At least 80% of guest facing staff must be trained and certified in the field of autism
- Must be able to provide ongoing special services and modified activities for visitors with special needs
- Must be committed to ongoing training in autism
- Must comply to an annual onsite facilities audit by IBCCES professionals
- Has made substantial accommodations and updates to procedures and physical space to ensure accessibility
Advantages of Booking a CAC
Organizations in travel are starting to become aware of how important it is to become certified in autism in order to stay relevant to their guests and competitive in their industry. An “autism friendly” destination may sound nice, but underneath the surface the title lacks consistent benefits and standards for individuals on the spectrum.
In contrast, the CAC certification was developed by industry experts in healthcare and education along with individuals who have autism. Employees must pass an assessment designed by the IBCCES board to measure their knowledge on autism and make sure they accurately understand the training material and how to implement it.
The training is specialized based on each role of the employee. This ensures that customer-facing staff are prepared to handle situations when they are face to face with guests and other employees know what to look out for and who to alert when they notice something.
Organizations that undergo CAC training will learn how to better serve guests with autism and will be able to identify their unique needs when it comes to things like dietary restrictions, emotional frustrations, and physical modifications in order to provide caring, effective solutions.
The ultimate benefit of choosing a CAC when traveling is that it ensures a seamless, safe and happy experience for the individual on the spectrum and the rest of the family.
How to Find a CAC
Where are these CACs? Autism Travel has compiled an autism travel directory that provides a list of all CACs for convenience. If you need further assistance, IBCCES recommends working with a Certified Autism Travel Professional (CATP). The role of a CATP is to provide support and travel related services to those with autism and their families.
If the idea of planning a trip on your own feels overwhelming, a CATP can act as a wonderful guide. They will be happy to assist you and provide you and your family with all of the resources necessary to make traveling the best experience it can be. Find a CATP.
Seamless Travel for Families with Autism and Other Cognitive Disorders is Within Reach
Since 2012 there’s been a 30% increase in individuals who have been diagnosed with autism and over 20 million families include someone who is on the spectrum.
The travel industry can’t ignore these numbers and the millions of people who are being underserved.
“Autism friendly” no longer holds significant meaning and it’s far too easy for organizations to assume this title.
Booking with a CAC is a guaranteed way for families to enjoy their travel time and rest assured that their loved one who has autism is in good hands. Make your next trip an unforgettable experience with memories that the whole family can cherish.