Looking For An Autism-Friendly Vacation? This Town Wants You To Visit

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Vacations provide most people with a much-needed escape from their everyday routines, but for an individual with an autism spectrum disorder, the sights, sounds, and unfamiliarity of a vacation are often anything but relaxing. Thanks to a small, beach-side town in South Carolina, families with children who have autism now have options that promise to minimize these common travel challenges.

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Vacationing and Autism

Long lines, crowds of unfamiliar faces, and overloads of lights, movements, and unusual noises can create a variety of reactions in individuals with autism spectrum disorder. Typical vacation spots are full of these common triggers, meaning that travel creates a long list of challenges for families with children who have the disorder. The reactions of other guests and business personnel often cause parents the greatest amount of stress.

Surfside Beach

Surfside is a quiet, family-friendly beach community that is located just minutes away from the bustling Grand Strand of Myrtle Beach, South Carolina. It's tucked away from noise and distractions. Known as “The Family Beach,” Surfside is home to a fishing pier, a water park, miniature golf, and a variety of shops and restaurants. It is also within close proximity to many other popular attractions, including a zoo, Ripley's Aquarium and several parks.

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An Autism-Friendly Destination

In January 2016, the Town Council of Surfside Beach proclaimed Surfside Beach to be the first-ever autism-friendly travel destination, according to WMBF. The community already provides a quiet, low-key setting without the crowds found at nearby beaches. Now, the town aims to create a judgement-free zone for autism families—a place where parents can relax because the community understands autism and caters to the needs of individuals on the autism spectrum.

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Becky Large, founder of Champion Autism Network, mother of a child with autism spectrum disorder, and Surfside resident, is working closely with the city to make Surfside Beach a fun and relaxing vacation destination for families with children on the autism spectrum. Local restaurants and lodging providers are being educated about autism, and many staff members have family members with autism spectrum disorders. Special events, such as sensory-friendly movies and aquarium exhibits, play dates at the park and surfing lessons, will potentially take place in the future, too.

Autism-friendly destinations like Surfside Beach make vacationing much easier for families with children who have autism spectrum disorders, but common behaviors associated with the disorders still pose challenges for travel. Watch this video for more tips on planning your next family vacation.

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