The Myrtle Beach area of South Carolina and Champion Autism Network (CAN) has achieved another huge milestone for inclusive travel, with its central hub – the City of Myrtle Beach – earning the Autism Friendly Destination designation. This follows one of the area’s smaller beach communities, Surfside Beach, earning the first-ever designation of any destination in 2016.
As part of the designation, Myrtle Beach area restaurants and attractions will continue collaborating with CAN to train staff to spot and react to autism-related challenges, offer sensory-friendly programming and events, and create unique perks to ensure that the area remains a seamless vacation option for families. A CAN card is available to families, free of charge, providing a quiet and dignified way to alert businesses of their special needs. The card enables them preferential seating at restaurants like Johnny D’s Waffles and Bakery, and to jump the line at often crowded attractions like the SkyWheel.
Spearheaded by local mother Becky Large, CAN was formed to help alleviate the barriers some families experience when trying to do what should be a simple and enjoyable task: planning and enjoying a family vacation. With a son on the autism spectrum, Large knew the challenge of unpredictable outbursts and overstimulation – and most importantly, the way others’ judgement can hinder a parent’s decision to take their children away from home. Her efforts have been integral in creating a safe and judgement-free zone for families impacted by autism.
Other autism-friendly options for those on the spectrum include a Quiet Room at the Myrtle Beach International Airport, where passengers can decompress in the baggage claim area after a long flight. There is also a CAN Film Festival in Myrtle Beach, next scheduled for October 2019, exclusively featuring films by or about people with autism. Savannah’s Playground, the southeast’s first enabling playground, is another must-stop for families seeking inclusive activities.