Did you know that Surfside Beach and Myrtle Beach are autism friendly destinations? For families with autism, this is huge news! Most families with autism find themselves limited when it comes to travel. Some challenges that are ever present for children with autism are fear of change in location or schedule, fear of trying new foods, loud noises, bright strobe lighting, crowds, and more, resulting in stress for the whole family. Some children even bolt when faced by a new stressor. Since change of any sort can be extremely disruptive, families often opt not to travel at all. But the Myrtle Beach area is making travel more accessible. Through the help of Champion Autism Network (CAN), a Surfside Beach SC-based nonprofit, local businesses are learning about autism and becoming certified as autism friendly, accepting and supportive.
The first thing families shop for when determining a destination is accommodations. Myrtle Beach makes this easy! There are many resorts certified by CAN in Myrtle Beach ready to welcome and support autism families. Bluegreen Vacations offers help before you arrive addressing accommodation requests made after you book your reservation. Some accommodations include curb-side check-in and prioritized parking. The timeshare presentation is not a requirement at check-in for autism families. Staff is also trained in autism acceptance and awareness, to help in times of crisis if needed and educated about stimming and tantrums. Bluegreen wants autism families to be able to enjoy all of their amenities and know that they are welcome and understood. “We are pleased to work with Champion Autism Network to bring this training and awareness to our teams across Bluegreen Resorts. “Having completed the CAN certification process, all Bluegreen managed resorts are CAN certified and our associates are better equipped with the knowledge and sensitivity required to serve our families with special needs. This helps us to ensure that all of our owners and guests are able to have a remarkable vacation when staying at a Bluegreen resort.” -Ada Grzywna, Senior Vice President, Resort Operations
Will you be flying into Myrtle Beach? If so, CAN was instrumental in instituting the Nation’s first Quiet or Sensory Room in an airport. The Quiet Room at the Myrtle Beach International Airport offers a safe place for people with autism to decompress after their flight while someone grabs their baggage and gets the rental car.
Champion Autism Networks’ reach goes beyond the resorts and the airport to area attractions and restaurants as well. Ripley’s Aquarium, trampoline parks, bowling alleys and movie theaters offer sensory friendly events hosted by CAN. Eighteen local restaurants, such as Johnny’ D’s Waffles and Bakery, proudly have a CAN sticker on their front door identifying them as autism friendly. To best take advantage of these perks, visit www.championautismnetwork.com to learn if they are holding an autism friendly event while you are in town. Or even better, become a CAN Card Club Member and get discounts at participating attractions and restaurants. Show your card at a restaurant and they’ll immediately know how to care for your family. If you are still uncomfortable about eating out, Doordash and Grubhub will deliver your favorite foods from the CAN participating restaurants.
And let’s not forget the beach! The thought of lugging chairs, umbrellas, food, beach toys and kids to the beach can be daunting, but it doesn’t have to be. Numerous beach equipment rental companies can set up your spot before you even arrive. Baby Gear Myrtle Beach rents beach toys, strollers, water tables, beach wagons and more for wee ones. Huggins Beach Service and Beach Services in Surfside Beach provides chairs and umbrellas at very reasonable prices.
Know that when you visit the Myrtle Beach area you are coming to a place of acceptance and support because everyone deserves a vacation. The Myrtle Beach area is not just for some families, it’s for all families! Come play with us! Yes You CAN!
Rebecca Jeffreys is CAN’s Program Coordinator and is the author of “You Were Made for This- Finding Courage and Intuition for Raising a Child with Autism.” She lives in Surfside Beach with her adult son who has autism.