Many families with autism I’ve spoken to in the last year have expressed the wish to stay in autism-friendly hotels on their vacations. Although the main chains have made incredible strides in the last decade to accommodate the special needs community, some families still feel the need for hotels specializing specifically in autism.
I had the pleasure of speaking to Tal, the director of Aluteva Israel’s unique hotel for families with autism located near the Northern Israeli city of Karmiel that is maintained by the Israeli National Autism Association. (Alut)
When did Alut come up with the concept of creating an autistic friendly lodging?
The idea started in 2003 when Alut personnel realized that many families didn’t feel comfortable staying in regular hotels because of safety and behavior concerns, but they still wanted to enjoy vacationing with their kids. We decided to create the first autistic-friendly family resort in Israel, and possibly the world.
How was the current location chosen and what special accommodations do you offer in Aluteva?
We were provided this area, it is surrounded by forest trees and use to be a training camp for pre-army teens, so the investment was minimal. It is close to Kfar haye-la-dim, the teen boarding school, as well as the town of Karmiel, in the Beit Hakerem Valley of the Galilee.
We are a no-frills facility with the goal of making our patrons comfortable, especially the lower functioning crowd with more challenging behaviors. We currently have seven suites with two rooms and bathroom, and each is fully equipped with a mini kitchenette and microwave fridge, air-conditioning, and satellite TV.The units share an enormous yard with a fenced in playground and grassy area with benches, and during summer, we have an operating swimming pool. What makes us unique is our sensory room, fully equipped with ball pools and air mattresses, and a white therapy room with lights and soothing music to help the kids.We also offer a coffee place for families to meet and enjoy watching a movie, as well as a babysitting club to watch the kids while the parents relax.
We offer a full kosher dairy and vegetarian breakfast, warm meals you can pre-order, and packed lunches or sandwiches for day trips. Since we have refrigerators and microwaves in the rooms, families can also bring more particular food or bring in food from nearby eateries
What activities do you currently offer?
Well, for the families who just want a quiet, peaceful vacation, the playground and swimming pool are a good start. We offer classes for parents and guest lectures, as well as storytelling and creativity classes for kids at different levels. Hiking, scootering, and visits to the nearby petting zoo are all offered. Touring the Galilee area is truly recommended for everyone wanting to explore historical areas, or families can just go shopping in the Akko Shouk. It’s up to the individual family.
Any plans to open additional centers?
I’m afraid not at present since this center is still not entirely sustainable to cater solely to autistic families. It doubles as an afternoon community center and a hostel for hikers in the area. To offset our costs, the hotel functions as an afternoon center for school kids and as a hotel for other paying guests. We are hopeful that, in the future, our model will become more financially independent and will be adopted in other countries.