Vacationing with a child with Autism – Yes You Can

Today I want to talk a little about Autism.  I know this used to be a word that we would lump many different problems under.  Now, with better education we know there is a broad spectrum to this disease and it can mean many things.  However you want to categorize it as, one thing we do know…it can be rough for parents that have kids with autism.

When it comes time for a vacation, this can be a real challenge.  While there are many places that are family and kid friendly, many places don’t know how to cater to those kids with autism.  There is one company that does and they are proud of it.  Royal Caribbean is that company.

The first thing I should mention is that Royal Caribbean or RCL is not paying me to promote them or their program.  It is just something I am proud of with them and want to spread the awareness of it.

To start with, RCL offers a program that is for families living with autism, Down Syndrome and other developmental disabilities.  Their staff is trained and certified.  Some of the products and services offered are:

  • Priority check-in, boarding and departure.
  • Special dietary accommodations. This can include foods that are gluten free and dairy free
  • They have the Adventure Ocean group which is a flexible grouping by ability for children 3-11 years old
  • RCL will suspend their Toilet-Trained policy
  • Subject to availability, they will supply pagers or phones for the parents of the children in the Adventure Ocean program while they are signed in.

This program is available on all of their ships.  In addition to this, they have their Autism on the Seas program which caters to families with children, teens and adults with autism or other developmental disabilities.  While the program is only on select cruises, they offer:

  • Extra trained staff. They provide 1 staff member for every 2-3 guest
  • Assistance with RC products and services
  • Specialized respite sessions
  • Private activities and sessions

RCL doesn’t just place some trained professionals on their ship and leave it at that.  No, they take their care even further because they know that the parents are going to want to spend time with their kids.  To make this more enjoyable they also offer:

  • The Autism Channel – They have a complimentary on-demand channel with exclusive content on most of their ships. The channel provides information and resources to families and professionals.  There is educational and entertainment programming on the channel.
  • Autism Friendly Films – These films are presented in a low-lit and low volume environment. The guests are encouraged to freely talk and walk around during the film.  The films are offered where there are autism groups or at least 5 individuals with autism onboard.
  • Toy Lending Program – This is part of the Adventure Ocean Program. Upon request, they will issue a tote bag of autism friendly toys which can be used in the program space or in your stateroom.
  • Autism Friendly Activities – While the activities are for children of all abilities, they can make modifications to them if needed.
  • Cruising Social Story – A Social Story is a written or visual guide describing various social interactions, situations, behaviors, skills or concepts. These Social Stories help individuals with autism to better cope with social situations. Royal Caribbean offers a Cruising Social Story about cruising to help families with autism prepare for their cruise vacation.

Now you might be asking what qualifies the staff to work with kids with autism.  Well, all Youth staff are required to have a 4 year University degree in education, recreation or related field.  They have to have at least 3-5 years qualified experience working with children ages 6 months to 17 years.  In addition, all the Youth staff receives autism awareness training.

Knowing all of this, you should now feel a little more comfortable taking a vacation, mainly a nice cruise.  You can go out and explore the world while knowing you are in good hands.  And I have to say, if this now interests you and you would like to discuss it further, then please reach out to me.  I can help you get that vacation you deserve.  You can also sign up here and I will be able to send you deals on trips that might interest you.

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