There are few better feelings than arriving at your chosen hotel for your vacation and sinking back into your bed, blissful and ready to relax. But for those on the autism spectrum, travelling is rarely calm — and more often than not, a source of stress.
That’s one of the reasons why Cathy Lomond, owner of Hotel Port Aux Basques in Port Aux Basques, Nfld., decided to create a space where those with autism disorder spectrum (ADS) can feel at rest.
“In 2013, a retired Special Ed/Resource teacher, Joan Chaisson, and April Billard, a parent of two autistic children, formed an organization called Autism Involves Me (AIM) here,” explains Lomond in an email interview with The Huffington Post Canada. “Some members of the organization discussed how difficult it was to travel with autistic children. Joan approached me and I immediately jumped at working with the group to see what we needed to do to become an autism-friendly hotel.”
Lomond’s sister, who has Down Syndrome, was a student of Chaisson’s when she was a child, and she believes that helped influence her decision to create a space that’s accessible to more people.
“My sister is now 51 years old and has always been a part of society,” Lomond writes. “Both my parents were very involved years ago with getting support for special need children. So, I guess I was reared up in an environment of the rewards of being involved with special needs individuals.”
Accommodations for those with ADS in the hotel include pictures secured to the wall in guest rooms, as well as hiding items like coffee makers using child-proof safety locks on dresser drawers (those with ASD can be sensitive to everyday sounds and textures, according to Autism Spectrum Australia). Additional door safety chains were also put in place out of reach of the children, as wandering is a common behaviour for people with autism.