As Autism Awareness grows within the travel industry, many hotel managers have approached me asking for advice on how to make their establishment more autistic-friendly. Although there is no exact formula to fit all autistic globetrotters nor for that matter hotel budgets, here are some useful guidelines that I thought might successfully accommodate most.
Safety is the number one concern on multiple levels for parents and hotel management, as many autistic globetrotters can become disoriented in a new environment and react adversely to unknown situations. In today’s world filled with the latest electronic gadgets, it might become important for parents to invest in a personal GPS system, especially for the non-verbal wandering traveler. The more affordable alternative the hotel can offer is to have the AG wear a lanyard or plastic bracelet with the hotel address.
Preventing unplanned wandering
Unfortunately, the exit door can be an attraction to some AGs, so an alarm on all exit doors or other noise alerting device, as well as a way to safely lock the door from the inside with a code or key would be best.
Preventing unintentional or intentional falls
One should never voluntarily put an AG in a room with a balcony or windows that fully open, but if the hotel or resort has only balcony rooms, then a keyed lock must be placed on the door leading to the balcony. Rooms with opening windows should also be equipped with a keyed lock, not just a regular window lock.
AG presents two types of decorating challenges namely motor challenges that can render them clumsy or unstable resulting in them bumping into objects, along with unpredictable meltdowns during which they might use objects to harm others or themselves.
With these two issues in mind any and all glass type furniture. mirrors, standing lamps, and decorations should be avoided, while TV and wall pictures should be securely bolted when planning a room that is autistic friendly.
In the bathroom. glass enclosures can be a liability and if they’re already installed several vertical handrails in the shower areas should be installed. Two mats should be supplied, rubber anti-slip for the shower and a softer towel like one to wipe feet outside the showers to prevent the floor from becoming slippery.
Most AG are temperature sensitive so the thermostat in the room should be a conditioning/heating system. Additional fans or heating elements can help too. If the AG’s bed is too far or too close to the room vent or window, adjust bed placement accordingly.
If the AG is light sensitive adjust bed position or if cost effective install double curtains in the room.
A powerful built-in night light is useful if the AG walks to the bathroom so he or she does not bump into anything
Many AG are sound sensitive so the room offered should be a quiet one away from elevators, laundry areas, noisy stairs, busy streets and even ice machines as much as possible.AG rooms should face courtyards or gardens, never streets, swimming pools or any kind of sports court. As AG can be quite noisy themselves a room at the very end of the corridor is usually best. The addition of a sound machine can be somewhat helpful too.
Many AG takes medicines and might be on specific diets so a room refrigerator is quite the necessity for water, snacks and then some. Have vending machines on the property if at all possible.
Block the porn channels for the AG kids and try to offer at least one if not more cartoon channel. An added bonus could be a DVD player with a small DVD library in the reception area.
Many AG have allergies, so the room should be as hypoallergenic as possible-always a nonsmoking and no feathers
.Many AG has problems washing independently so rooms with tub-shower combos are a good idea. Assume nothing- so if your establishment has anything different than a sink and toilet in the bathroom such as a bidet or Japanese style toilet then have a staff member introduce the AG to its use.
Offering a vending machine with small items such as tooth paste,deo and especially hand sanitizer might be a great idea since most parents to autistic kids are stressed and are bound to forget to pack an essential item or two, that they might need in the middle of the night.
Offer Extra towels, sheets
Some AG may require extra housekeeping products but are too ashamed or shy to ask.
Offer personal shopping option
Some AG might require diapers or other items that are difficult to transport, so offering that extra help might definitely put the hotel at an advantage.
Explain to your staff that AG might sometimes appear to be rude without meaning it. Ask them to be patient and repeat directions to a place or breakfast options more than once if necessary.
A great amenity would be a small bag containing a hotel printed page with pictures of the different parts of the hotel, area map with a directory such as the nearest park, grocery store, bank, restaurants, doctors and even nearest hospital. A list of local activities with details such as opening hours and price would be greatly appreciated Extra special would be a small stuffed animal that has the hotel name and or logo as the AG special friend away from home. adjusted according to their specific need; assuming there is a central air