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Added 11 April, 2018

Family tourist attractions see profits in becoming autism-friendly

Myrtle Beach, South Carolina, has a busy boardwalk and all kinds of attractions, from mini-golf courses and water parks to a zip line and a Ferris wheel. So it might not be an obvious destination for families with kids on the autism spectrum who may be easily overwhelmed by noise and commotion. But an organization called Champion Autism Network is working with hotels, restaurants and other venues to make the area autism-friendly. “If you’re going to invite the autism world to play with you on the beach, you have to have people be aware,” said Champion Autism Network founder Becky Large, whose son is on the spectrum. “We’ve trained hotels, restaurants and others and it’s really paying off.” Large started Champion Autism Network (CAN) in 2016, working with the Myrtle Beach airport to open a “quiet room” where kids could decompress from the stresses of air travel. She then began reaching out to local businesses, offering staff training. Families present a CAN card at participating venues as a way to discreetly signal their needs, and the businesses offer CAN families discounts and services like skipping the wait line. “They show the card and the staff will know where to seat you, how to treat you,” Large said. “They know it’s possible there might be some awkward social behavior. The person might become overstimulated. They might have to wrap up the food before it’s even serviced.” The biggest takeaway from CAN’s training? When kids on the spectrum “become overstimulated or have a tantrum or a meltdown, they’re not just being naughty children that parents can’t control,” Large said. “Rather than being judgmental, recognize that this is a family in crisis. Offer a friendly hand and a smile.”

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