THE AUTISM-FRIENDLY TRAVEL DESTINATION
Staying true to our “Family Beach” motto, Surfside Beach officially became the first autism-friendly travel destination in the world in January 2016.
It’s a first we’re proud of, as Resolution 16-162 declares, “Whereas, the Business Committee has developed a plan for families affected by autism to experience a safe and enjoyable vacation at The Family Beach that will accommodate the families’ needs by hosting events specifically designed for individual with autism; and whereas, the Lowcountry Autism Foundation Inc., the Autism Academy of South Carolina, and the Reggie Sanders Foundation have endorsed this effort; and whereas the business community has engaged in this effort and together, with the Surfside Beach Business Committee, endorse the recommendation to resolve that the Town of Surfside Beach is ‘An Autism-Friendly Travel Destination.’”
Why is this so important to our town? As “The Family Beach,” we understand that we need to be sensitive to all families while they visit and stay with us. Becky Large, Surfside Beach resident and founder of Champion Autism Network (CAN), knows, too, which is why she was integral in having the proclamation passed. As a mother of a son on the autism spectrum, she knows it’s an epic move on Surfside’s part; it’s been her mission to spread autism awareness since founding CAN in 2012 and to make families with autistic children aware that businesses, restaurants, attractions and hotels are trained and ready to support them in an empathetic, non-judgmental environment while they travel away for days or weeks from the comfort of home.
Autism, in general, is characterized by difficulties in social interaction, verbal and nonverbal communication, repetitive behaviors and sensory processing issues, which means lights, sounds, smells and crowds – especially in a new environment – are difficult to tolerate. Overstimulation then leads to tantrums or meltdowns – and the public eye isn’t usually accepting.
For families living with autism, this can be challenging and unpredictable as it is – and even more so when traveling, which is why most families stay home. But Surfside Beach and CAN have introduced the CAN Card so these families can get away and relax. The card offers a way for families to subtly let participating attractions, restaurants, hotels and resorts know that they are an autism family to ensure proper service and support. Participating businesses, in turn, are trained to accommodate your special needs.
For more information on CAN, Surfside Beach’s autism-friendly distinction, and to request a CAN Card, visit the Champion Autism Network .To contact us, please email us at firstname.lastname@example.org