As Autism Awareness grows around the world and within the travel industry, many hotel managers have asked me for advice on how to make their establishment more autism-friendly. Although there is no exact formula to fit all families with autism, I’ve come up with some useful guidelines hotels can adopt to accommodate patrons with autism.
- Hotels should avoid putting families with autism in rooms with glass bathroom enclosures, balconies or windows that fully open since kids with autism tend to be more ‘accident prone’. If the property’s only option is balcony rooms, then a keyed lock should be installed to block the kid from leaving on the door.
The same applies to any rooms with opening windows.Something that could be slightly annoying to the average person can be downright intolerable to a person with autism, so it is important to think about potential issues that can upset travelers with autism.
- Many travelers with autism are sound sensitive so offer rooms away from elevators, swimming pools, sports courts, restaurants, casinos, service areas, laundry areas, noisy stairs, busy streets and even ice machines. Designate quiet rooms that face courtyards or gardens and are located at the end of corridors. A sound machine can be beneficial to some kids with autism.
- Some children with autism are temperature sensitive, so a room thermostat is almost a necessity! If the kid’s bed is too close to the chamber vent or window, adjust bed placement accordingly.For light, sensitive kids room darkening double curtains are useful. Remember to have a night light so the child can see their way to the bathroom at night when the room is dark.
- To prevent injuries incurred from stimming or meltdowns injury bolting TV sets, wall pictures, and mirrors, as well as the removal of breakable decorations and lamps, is recommended.Living plants should be removed as younger kids might chew on leaves.
Nice to have
- The number one concern of parents, especially to children with autism that are nonverbal and wander off, is getting lost.Hotels can offer lanyards or plastic bracelets with the hotel address or a GPS device that can be rented by caregivers.
- Hotels should offer parents the option to install additional temporary door and window alarms (stick -on) that can alert parents if their kid leaves the room.
- Many children on the spectrum take medicines and might be on specific diets, so a room refrigerator comes in handy for water, snacks and then some. Vending machines or a store selling snacks on the property is good too.
- Offer at least one kids channel as part of the hotel’s TV lineup and provide parents with an easy way to block the porn channels (if the hotel offers them). Some hotels offer DVD players and DVDs, tablets and even laptops for rent.
- Properties should have designated hypoallergenic rooms if at all possible since some kids with autism also suffer from allergies.
- Children with autism can have problems washing themselves independently, so bathrooms with tub-shower combos that have the hand held shower heads are a good idea.
- Some kids react adversely to florescent lighting so offering non-fluorescentlighting and dimmers can be helpful.
- Provide a Concierge service that helps parents pre-order items like diapers and special diet foods and getting them delivered directly to the hotel especially if they are too heavy or bulky to transport on flights
- Designated sensory room or area with swings and rockers in the hotel where travelers on the autism spectrum can relax are good ideas to consider.
- A vending machine with sundries items such as toothpaste, deodorant, and hand sanitizer in case parents forget to pack an essential item.Offering these items for free is even better!
- Hotels should have a social book with pictures and a map of the hotel to familiarize visitors with autism faster especially if the property is large.A printed page with the area’s info for parents detailing convenient places they need to know such as local parks, closest supermarket /drugstore and even the phone of the local pediatrician.