Have you met Julia?
Sesame Workshop debuted Sesame Street and Autism: See Amazing in All Children in 2015 with the introduction of Julia, a 4-year-old Muppet who is autistic. Julia made her way from Sesame Street to Beaches Resorts back in April of 2017, in celebration of Autism Acceptance Month.
Beaches Resorts' commitment to family vacation travel goes well beyond the array of facilities, activities, amenities and entertainment at its resorts. The Luxury Included Family Resort brand, was the first all-inclusive company in the world to complete the rigorous IBCCES(International Board of Credentialing and Continuing Education Standards) and Autism Certification, achieving the gold standard in global cognitive disorder training and certification. Today, Beaches continues its commitment to this audience and being the resort for everyone and is the only resort company in the world accredited as an Advanced Certified Autism Center (ACAC).
With 1 in 44 children diagnosed with an autism spectrum disorder in the United States alone, Beaches Resorts is a luxury vacation experience where kids and adults on the spectrum can feel safe, be loved, and above all, enjoy a fun-filled family getaway!
In 2017 Beaches entered into a partnership with the International Board of Credentialing and Continuing Education Standards to tailor vacation experiences at its resorts to include families with children on the autism spectrum.
"We had learned from some of our guests what a challenge it is to go on vacation with an autistic child, not knowing how or if the resort was equipped to handle their child's needs in a new situation and environment," said Gary Sadler, executive vice president, sales and industry relations for Sandals Resorts International.
Every member of the Beaches team has to complete ongoing training annually, which includes an emphasis on the resort's key areas, including kids' camps, front desk, entertainment, restaurants, food and beverage and watersports operations. The recertification process also includes new training for the airport arrival lounges/desk team members in Montego Bay, Jamaica and Providenciales, Turks and Caicos, which are the first point of contact for Beaches' arriving guests.
Now, let's follow Julia through a typical day at Beaches Resorts!
Time for Camp!
When she’s ready in the morning, Julia heads to Beaches’ Kids Camp! Beaches Resorts’ Kids Camps are open to kids of all ages and are supervised by a team of nannies and staffers who are members of the International Nanny Association and have all been advanced-level certified by IBCCES. To receive accreditation, Beaches’ nannies have logged more than 2,000 hours of child-care services and have been trained in safety, nutrition, and child development. For children on the spectrum, our Kids Camp team members have the requisite knowledge, skills, and expertise to ensure a great day at camp.
At camp, Julia loves to play with her toys, and she’s always sure to bring her own beloved stuffed bunny, Fluffster. The Beaches Kids Camp also has sensory toys for children with autism, like Twiddles. Twiddles are playful comfort aids designed for people with sensory-related conditions. Twiddles keep children’s minds active, engaged and calm during playtime.
But most of all, Julia loves to paint! During ‘Amazing Art with Julia’, children can express themselves through art using a wide range of materials, and afterwards, they talk about how their artwork is a celebration of who they are and their unique selves!
Off to Meet the Beaches Buddies!
After her activities at the Kids Camp, Julia stops by to say hello to her friends that have hired the personalized service of a One-on-One Beaches Buddy.
Traveling to a new place can be overwhelming to anyone, especially a child on the autism spectrum. The Beaches Buddy Program works to make visitors feel more at home with activities that can be tailored towards both kids and adults on the spectrum. Guests can organize through Special Services or once they are on a resort, a One-on-One Beaches Buddy who has been accredited by IBCCES in advance autism training, for their entire stay or just for a few hours, available at an additional cost (Services are available for a fee of $50 for 2 hours, $10 every hour after but are subject to change).
Together, Beaches Buddies experience the Caribbean on their own time. They may start the day at the beach, go snorkeling with all the colorful fish and coral resting atop the sand, or simply stroll around the resort and get acquainted.
Next, Julia says hi to her friends at the Aqua Center who are learning how to scuba dive. Many individuals on the autism spectrum are drawn to water, and the Autism Spectrum Disorder Foundation (ASDF) highlights that swimming can help children improve speech, coordination and balance, social skills, self-esteem, cognitive processing, communication and oral motor skills.
In collaboration with the Professional Association of Dive Instructors (PADI), the Beaches Resorts water sports staff and its Aqua Centers have completed advanced autism training and certification so that visiting families, including those on the spectrum, can be exposed to the sights of the underwater world.
Time for Lunch!
Spending the morning meeting new friends and participating in fun-filled activities can make Julia hungry! Rest assured there are plenty of dining options, from pizza to frozen yogurt with all the toppings to everything in between. Julia especially loves pizza!
Children with autism may experience extreme sensitivity to the flavors, colors, smells, and textures of foods. Often, children with autism have strong preferences or hardened routines around mealtime, sometimes wanting the same foods, served on the same plate, at the same time each day.
The Beaches Culinary Concierge Team makes mealtime easy by working directly with their executive chefs, sous chefs, and restaurant managers to guide guests through all its restaurant offerings and help create custom menus that fit your family’s special dietary needs.
With a little help from the Beaches Culinary Concierge, families can be sure to have all their dietary needs met. In advance of your travel, you can complete your personalized Culinary Assessment.
Catching Z’s at Quiet Time
While Julia is winding down and enjoying some quiet time, families with children on the autism spectrum can also check out a Dreampad from the Beaches’ Kids Camp. Designed for children with high levels of anxiety or autism, Dreampads are pillows that help calm children and lull them into more restful sleep. They also play audio and send vibrations through a solid pillow, stimulating the vagus nerve and activating the parasympathetic nervous system.
When Julia is looking for some quiet time and less sensory stimulation, she can go to one of her favorite low-sensory zones at Beaches Resorts. Some of these locations include the library in the Key West Village at Beaches Turks & Caicos; or the big lawn at Beaches Ocho Rios; and at Beaches Negril, the sunken garden or the Big Top Amphitheater during the daytime.
Beaches Resorts are the Resorts For Everyone, and They Mean It!
Each day at Beaches Resorts brings a new adventure for Julia, allowing her to explore, learn new things, and make friends in her “Julia sort of way.” At Beaches, they are proud to offer all children engaging activities so all families can enjoy an award-winning, Luxury Included vacation.
For more information about Beaches autism-friendly and inclusive resorts, click here or call 844-360-9380 to speak to Beaches’ Special Services Team, certified by IBCCES, during all the planning stages of your vacation.
A Little More About Autism Accommodations at Beaches Resort...
The Island Routes Fast Track Arrival & Departure Service is available for an additional fee. Upon arrival, a professional airport agent will welcome you and escort you through immigration, customs and security to make sure your arrival is quick and seamless! Upon departure, an airport agent will assist with check-in and security clearance and get you to your departure gate on time.
Within Jamaica, these can be arranged through Island Routes Caribbean Adventures for families who are seeking the privacy and comfort of their own transportation. In Turks & Caicos, arrangements are set up through Special Services. Note: Services available at an additional cost.
Guests who arrive with a loved one on the autism spectrum have private in-room check-in.
Beaches' Platinum Protocols of Cleanliness were created with consideration of guests with sensory disorders by using low-fragrance cleaners and fragrance-free hand sanitizers.
In collaboration with the International Board of Credentialing and Continuing Education Standards, Beaches plans to launch a Sensory Stimulation Guide this summer that will provide guests with an understanding of what they can expect in each designated area of the resort. The locations will be identified through resort maps, onsite signage and in pre-travel planning materials.
A little about me, I am an incredibly passionate Certified Autism Travel Professional (CATP) with the International Board of Credentialing and Continuing Education Standards (IBCCES) who specializes in autism travel. Although I adore helping all of my clients, I am most enthusiastic assisting families like mine as I am a mother of two awesome teenagers who happen to both be on the autism spectrum.
If you would like an advocate on your side to assist you with the planning of your next adventure, you have come to the right place. The best part is, if you book a vacation package with me - you will not pay a penny more than if you booked direct, however, the value of the services that I provide to my clients is truly priceless.