In an effort to create a more inclusive community space for visitors and residents with autism, Forest Preserve District’s Four Rivers Environmental Education Center in Will County, IL, has earned the Certified Autism Center™ designation through the International Board of Credentialing and Continuing Education Standards (IBCCES). IBCCES’ training and certification will help staff provide guests with autism and sensory sensitivities can have with the best possible experience.
“Program and facility visitation for people with autism and their families can be very difficult. Families need to plan carefully,” explained Chris Gutmann, facility supervisor for the Forest Preserve District’s Four Rivers Environmental Education Center in Channahon. “Having Four Rivers certified as an autism center helps take a little of that burden off of those families by letting them know our staff is trained to understand and assist with their needs. The certification is part of a larger initiative to address how Four Rivers can better serve the community and increase inclusivity. Everyone should be able to enjoy our visitor centers and our forest preserves.”
Four Rivers Environmental Education Center has begun offering public programs for those with special needs and has others in the early stages of development. Gutmann says, “The center is also examining how to best apply our IBCCES training to existing, recurring programs as well as to facility improvements slated for this site. For example, we are working on developing an all-persons’ interpretive trail that accommodates visitors of all abilities, including different sensory abilities.”
For more than 20 years, IBCCES has been the leader in cognitive disorder training and certification for healthcare, education and corporate professionals around the globe. IBCCES recognized that many families with children who have special needs have limited travel and recreation options. In response to this need, IBCCES created training and certification programs specifically for the recreation and hospitality sectors.
“We’re excited to work with the Forest Preserve District of Will County so their team can provide positive interactions and accommodations for all visitors and residents. Our goal is to make sure all families and individuals can have peace of mind when visiting new places and benefit from these experiences,” said Myron Pincomb, IBCCES Board Chairman.
More families and individuals are seeking out destinations and organizations that have completed a certification program through an accredited source. IBCCES is the only credentialing organization providing this type of certification, which includes evidence-based information as well as the perspectives of individuals with autism, alongside other tools and resources such as onsite reviews and customized recommendations, as well as renewal requirements to ensure the program is a long-term commitment and has a lasting impact.
IBCCES also created AutismTravel.com, a free online resource for parents that lists certified destinations and connects families to other resources and each other. Each destination listed on the site has met Certified Autism Center™ (CAC) requirements.