Is your hotel committed to supporting families that care for a child with autism spectrum disorder (ASD)?
Even though ASD is protected by The Americans with Disability Act (ADA) we still see reports from families running into major challenges with hotels that have not taken actions to serve this segment.
And in most cases, it comes down to a lack of knowledge and training.
Together with Director Kimberly Buonavolanto and the team at Sensory City, I want to shed some light on how hotels can create a more inclusive experience.
Typically, people with ASD have:
- Difficulty with communication and interaction with other people
- Restricted interests and repetitive behaviors
- Symptoms that hurt the person’s ability to function properly in school, work, and other areas of life
ASD is a “spectrum disorder” that affects individuals differently and to varying degrees. One person with ASD can look very different from another individual diagnosed with ASD. For example, some individuals with ASD may rarely use words to communicate, while others may hold extensive conversations and use rich language. Some may not like to be hugged or touched, while others seek out and enjoy physical touch.
Many individuals with ASD also have other, co-occurring conditions, such as anxiety, attention issues, seizures, and sleep disturbance.
ASD is found in all ethnicities, races, and countries, and occurs in more boys than girls.
While there is no definitive cure for ASD, there are educational, behavioral, and therapeutic interventions and strategies for families and instructors to teach motor skills, cognitive skills, and social skills. These plans and programs are highly individualized, as the needs of each individual with ASD are different.
Source: Center for Autism Research
Creating an Autism-friendly and inclusive hotel
“Finding a hotel that can accommodate my SPD child is like finding a unicorn.” -Kate Joyce
Hotels today have to start learning how to create an inclusive hotel experience.
My friends at Sensory City did a poll on Social Media where 75% of ASD families said they would pay extra for an autism-friendly hotel and amenities, not that they should have to.
This just goes to show that the demand is great, and hotels are missing out on this opportunity to welcome new and repeat guests to their hotels.
Today with all the unique access hotels have to information and training there is no excuse to not create an inclusive experience.
“We don’t take family vacations- too stressful, too much stuff to pack for my ASD son. Hotels just aren’t able to accommodate us yet. I hope one day this change for us.” -ASD Dad
How can the hotel start to be more proactive creating a more inclusive experience?
Sensory City is a 501 (c)(3) non-profit based in Boston. They provide the hotel staff with training room assessments and sensory-friendly amenities.
Every hotel should have 2-3 sensory accessible rooms and 2 of each kit (sensory, safety, comfort) to offer their guests or sell them in their gift shop.
By making these easy yet impactful changes a hotel can easily attract these families that otherwise wouldn’t travel or stay at an Airbnb, making their ROI very easy!
“I took my son to visit family out of town. We planned on staying at a hotel but had such a difficult time at the hotel that we ended up packing up and driving 23 hours back home.” – April Dawn
Sensory City hotel-specific sensory inclusion training is more than just Autism Awareness. Hotel employees will learn about unique sensory issues, the many individuals who present with them, and best practices for communicating with those who have a variety of disabilities.
Their online training program is 3-4 hours in length and provided by a Certified Speech Pathologist and or an Occupational Therapist.
“Weighted blankets are so important. I have taken my daughter on vacations and without our weighted blanket, hotel stays are miserable.” -Tamara Wiggins
Your hotel doesn’t have a gift shop? No worries my friends at Sensory City will provide your hotels with kits that help create an inclusive experience.
- Communication boards
- Noise-canceling headphones
- Sensory toys and fidget toys
- Outlet covers
- Sensory ice pack
- Motion detector door alarm
- Soft glow night light
- Identifying wristband
- Weighted blanket
- Sensory eye mask
- Vibrating pillow
Get certified as a Sensory Inclusive Hotel that can promote inclusion, accessibility, and awareness >> Download More Information
Making small changes and providing simple amenities can yield an inclusive and outstanding experience for all guests, decrease issues, and increase positive social media marketing.
I give a few personal thoughts here. For many years I worked in Social Security both in Norway, and here in the US. I met several families with children that had characteristics within the Autism Spectrum Disorder.
Even though it was part of my job and I meet with families I still never got a full understanding of the challenges they dealt with daily.
For me, the most important part is to take the time to learn more about it so we as hoteliers can better work with the families that face unpredictable challenges daily.
I am very thankful and humble for the time and effort that organizations like Sensory City do to educate us all to our best to create a more inclusive experience.
“The nights we’ve stayed at hotels having forgotten to bring our items were sleepless nights for all of us. An autism-friendly hotel would be a game-changer.” -Melanie Nazarian
We are in this together!
I need to let you all know that we are in on this together. If you need to vent, talk, cry, or just have some to talk with then I am here listening. Since I am working part-time at the local Kroger, I will to the best of my ability to work it out around my schedule.
But you can reach me here:
Also, join us at our Facebook Group – Hotel Social Media Community
We will get through this unprecedented event together! #hotelstrong #hospitalitystrong
We are starting to reopen some hotels again (Yay!!!). Make sure you follow their guidelines and say THANK YOU to those that now show a unique spirit to serve, and helps us all get through this!! #hotelstrong #hospitalitystrong
A special thank you to Kimberly Buonavolanto, Director at Sensory City
About Are Morch
Hi, I am Are Morch. Your Digital Marketing Coach and Customer Experience Expert that specializes in creating effective digital customer experience offer for hotels while growing and scale customer acquisition and revenue.