Most readers of this blog probably know that my oldest grandson, Mikey, is on the Autism Spectrum. He has made tremendous strides in adapting to a world that is not completely natural to him, and like most of us new things in his life can be a particular challenge. New things or changes are particularly difficult for the millions of people who are autistic, regardless of where they are on the spectrum. Travel can be one of those particularly difficult things.
So, while I don’t really expect Mikey to be taking a cruise anytime soon, I was still glad for all those who are autistic and their families when I read the article “Royal Caribbean is first ‘autism-friendly’ cruise line” in today’s edition of USAToday. The different aspects of this autism-friendly rating include toys, activities, diet and movie presentations that are all designed for autistic passengers. One of the best things is these are not “cookie-cutter” or “one-size-fits-all” offerings. The staff will work with each family traveling with an autistic member to model these different elements for each individual as needed.
While we’re on this subject, you may recall that a little less than a year ago USAToday ran an article about the “Wings for Autism” program that many airlines out of Boston Airport are participating in to make flying for autistic people a much less challenging activity. Grants are being disbursed that will allow the program to be in 50 airports across the country over the next 3-5 years.
More than anything else, I am glad to see that major travel/vacation providers are recognizing the obligation to address the specific needs of a growing part of our population. For all of us, education helps produce understanding by those who are not familiar with Autism, in all of it’s different manifestations.