Champion Autism Network: Helping Bring Families to the Beach
The Champion Autism Network (CAN) is a nonprofit autism awareness organization that was started back in 2012 by Surfside Beach resident Becky Large. Large, like many other families across the globe, is personally connected to autism, as she is a mother to a child who falls on the spectrum. Because of this, Large wanted to branch out to the community and create a program and a resource to support others who are affected by autism.
CAN has three major goals:
- To educate the public about meltdowns, as well as to help reduce judgment towards families affected by autism and those with autism.
- To provide sensory and autism friendly venues and events.
- To let businesses know about the autism friendly travel destination initiative, as well as the loyalty of the autism population and the opportunity to receive training to participate in the CAN card program to capture the local and tourist niche audience.
In an interview with Large, she stated that many families affected by autism opt to stay home to avoid sensory overstimulation and meltdowns that may cause others to judge them. However, CAN is combatting the stigma and made Surfside Beach the first official autism friendly vacation destination! CAN has worked hard to train hotels, restaurants, and attractions on how to work with families affected by autism and how to cater to any special needs. This is not only important for CAN families, but it is also important for the community as those working and living in Surfside Beach are now becoming more aware of the issue.
But Large isn’t stopping there with her effort; CAN is now working on spreading into Myrtle Beach and other parts of the Grand Strand to make more places autism friendly. CAN has already partnered with the Myrtle Beach Airport and created the Quiet Room. The Quiet Room is a cozy room located near baggage claim, and parents can bring their child to this room to relax while someone gets the baggage. This allows those with autism to relax in chairs or in cubbies without being over stimulated by crowds or the loud noises of the busy airport.
Other efforts by the CAN include autism friendly events such as sensory friendly movies, sensory friendly days at Ripley’s Aquarium, autism friendly days at the Myrtle Beach State Park, bowling days, and more! This not only allows families to go out and have fun, but it also gives them a chance to be around other people who can relate and who won’t pass judgment.
The CAN Card program is wonderful for both businesses and for families. This special card allows families to alert businesses that they are an autism family in a quiet and dignified fashion. Visitors can get their CAN card at the Holiday Inn in Surfside Beach, Surfside Beach Resort, Comfort Inn of Surfside, with Surfside Realty, or by contacting CAN.
For more information about the Champion Autism Network, visit their website at www.ChampionAutismNetwork.com.
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