Family vacations are a favorite pastime filled with fun memories for all. However, traveling with children with special needs can often pose a challenge.
The people at Autism on the Seas (AotS) have been helping families view traveling as a less stressful idea. The AotS Advisory Team is made up of experts from the Special Needs Industry, representatives from Cruise Companies, parents of children with disabilities, and members of Americans with Disabilities Act legal Counsel. Together they have created comprehensive programs and guidelines that bring an autism-friendly environment to many cruise lines.
The board members are experienced with individuals who have Autism, Asperger Syndrome, Tourette Syndrome, Cerebral Palsy, and many cognitive, intellectual, and development disabilities. Also, the organization offers their own well-trained, experienced staff member that travel with the family and assist them with cruise activities and entertainment to ensure an enjoyable experience. For example, Respite Sessions can be arranged for parents to have alone time while resting assured their child is well taken care of.
Celebrity Cruises is the most recent company to achieve a Silver Level “Autism Friendly” certification from Autism on the Seas. This qualifies them to provide quality accommodations for guests with special needs. Their Youth staff have gone through customized training with basic awareness and education in autism and other developmental disabilities. Each ship is certified separately based on the following topics/categories:
- Staff Training
- Special Needs Accommodations & Amenities
- Pre-Cruise Planning
- On Board Services & Events
- Specialized Dining & Dietary needs
- Guest Feedback
- Support for “Cruises with Autism on the Seas Staff”
One of the new services that will be available is Celebrity’s Fun Factory toy-lending youth program for children ages 3-11 years old. These toys are specially picked to have play and educational value. A catalog is offered by the cruise ship and Big Brain Toys, a leading company highly recommended by occupational, physical and play therapists.
This has been a great achievement for both the autism community and the Cruise Industry as they strive to give all their guests an amazing experience. Celebrity Cruises join the ranks along with Royal Caribbean, Disney, Norwegian, and Carnival Cruises, who have all been certified to accommodate individuals with special needs.
Written by Raiza Belarmino