Summer Camp Tips


By Kerry Magro, award-winning national speaker, author, and advocate

To pick the best summer camp options for your loved one on the autism spectrum, try to gather as much information as possible ahead of time. Here are some questions and considerations when choosing a summer camp.

Autism-Certified Destinations You Should Visit For Spring Break


By Kerry Magro, award-winning national speaker, author, and advocate

family on beach autism travelYou wouldn’t believe how many posts I see when spring is just around the corner about families having difficulties with an individual with autism when it comes to public outings! What I often tell families when I’m at a talk is what a dear friend and fellow autism advocate Mandy Farmer once told to me: “We cannot live in fear of the next meltdown, otherwise our children would never experience the world.”  

This used to be a common struggle for me growing up on the spectrum, as transitions were especially difficult for me. Other times, sensory issues would make it difficult for me especially in the warmer months to go to beaches because of the texture of sand on my toes or going to parks with the feeling of grass on my feet. Today, thanks to many years of Occupational Therapy, I love to travel and do it often in my work as a professional speaker!

I’m happy to share that our community is beginning to understand more about our kids needs so maybe they can fall in love with travel themselves! With that, I wanted to share a few destinations that have been designated as Certified Autism Centers (CAC) – destinations that you should consider visiting for Spring Break:


  • Beaches Resorts Did you know that Beaches Resorts is a group of all-inclusive family resorts? Along with the staff receiving nationally certified autism training by IBCCES, they even have Julia from Sesame Street (who has autism) for children to interact with. Speaking of Sesame Street…
  • Sesame Place (Philadelphia, PA) – A destination that is sure to leave a smile on everyone in your family’s face! Sesame Place is currently the nation’s only theme park based entirely on Sesame Street! Their 2018 Opening Day will kickoff on April 28!
  • Grand Palladium Bavaro Suites Resort & Spa (Dominican Republic) – This international resort will impress you with the amount of activities for children on the spectrum can enjoy! This getaway is perfect for younger kids as their Punta Cana Resort complex has facilities for children from 1-12 full of activities to enjoy!
  • Georgia Aquarium (Atlanta, GA) – Love animals? I know many in our community do! Georgia Aquarium is a leading 501c3 non-profit organization that is fun for the whole family! I’ve visited in the past and have to say am impressed by their work, not only having their staff trained but also having awareness events focused on autism (Ex: Light It Up Blue in April for World Autism Month)


I’m curious to hear from you: What’s one of your favorite destination spots to visit that goes above and beyond for those with autism? Let me know by shooting me a message anytime on Facebook here. Happy travels!

Travel Anxiety Attacks


by: Nicole Thibault, CATP – Magical Storybook Travels

child with autism travel anxiety

It’s probably a given that if your child has an Autism diagnosis, he or she most likely struggles with anxiety as well. They kinda go hand-in-hand.

Anxiety while traveling is a real struggle for families with children on the Spectrum. You’re away from home, outside the child’s comfort zone, going to places with different sensory experiences, trying new foods and more. All of these factors can be overwhelming for someone with Autism and anxiety.

For my son with Autism, I do a lot of vacation prep before we go on any trip. We “social story” parts of the trip, review the details of our itinerary, and look for photos and videos of our experiences to watch before we travel, so that there are very few “unknowns” that can send my son into an anxiety panic attack.

But travel can be unpredictable. You can always plan for every detail, every emergency that may come up.

For example, on a recent trip from Key West, Florida, to the Dry Tortugas/Fort Jefferson National Park, our shuttle boat hit rough seas. The boat was hitting the waves, rising high into the air, and then dropping suddenly with each swell.

We knew we might experience some “turbulence” on the water, so we all took preventative motion sickness medicine, but no one was expecting such rough seas. It wasn’t long before many on the boat were green in the face and groaning with motion sickness.

(My other son with Sensory Processing Disorder LOVED the waves, and would throw his hands up in the air, and shout “Wheeee!” and giggle with every wave, just like on a roller coaster.)

Many people around us began vomiting into motion sickness bags. We were instructed by the Crew not to go into the restroom, but to stay seated, even if sick, due to the motion of the boat. So we witnessed many people getting sick around us.

My son with Autism wasn’t sick himself, but he saw everyone around us doubled over and vomiting, and he began to have an anxiety attack. He was worried that he too would vomit; he started to cry, hyperventilate, and repeat, “I don’t ever want to go on a boat again!”

So what to do to calm down a child in the midst of an anxiety attack while on vacation?

  1. Use words of comfort. “You’re safe, I’m right here.” Find language that lets your child know that even if the environment is uncertain at the moment, you are there and not going anywhere.
  2. Ask for feedback. If your child is verbal, he or she might be able to tell you their feelings, or even give you suggestions on how to make the situation less scary for them. Let them guide you, if they’re able.
  3. Give assurances. Let your child know that whatever anxiety-producing situation you may be in at the moment is not permanent and that you’re working towards being somewhere less stressful shortly.
  4. Deep compression hugs. Deep tissue touch can be a calming force for kids with Autism and anxiety. Use a strong-held and long-lasting hug to improve your child’s ability to cope with anxiety and also give them sensory input to assist with focus and calm.

Are Autism Parents “Cautious Travelers?”


by: Nicole Thibault, CATP – Magical Storybook Travels

In 2017, the Family Travel Association (FTA) released a study called, “Learning More About Today’s Modern Traveling Family.” In this study, the Family Travel Association identified three kinds of family travelers: The Hassle-Free Traveler, the Intrepid Traveler, and the Cautious Traveler.

The FTA says that the “Cautious Travelers” have been identified as wanting to visit new places and like to travel to experience different cultures. But they do worry about safety, and since they find it hard to identify appropriate activities for their children, they are the most likely to visit theme parks. These parents feel that travel strengthens family bonds, but may be too nervous to leave their comfort zones.

Can you guess which travel group Autism Parents fall into? I’m betting that 99% of Autism Moms and Dads are Cautious Travelers!

As a Mom of an amazing son with Autism, I am a self-identified Cautious Traveler. Since my son was diagnosed at the age of two, I’ve had to be able to think at least seven steps ahead of my son when traveling. Will the destination have loud noises so that we need to bring our noise-cancelling headphones? Will the restaurants have one of the five foods that my son eats? Will there be long lines for attractions? Will the crowds be overwhelming? Will the planned vacation activities push my son so far beyond his comfort zone that he gets stressed and refuses to participate? How can I best prepare for stress, anxiety, or a dreaded public meltdown?

So how do Autism Parents overcome their Cautiousness? Here are a few tips for working up to traveling with your kids, with or without Autism:

  1. Start small. First start with trips to the grocery store. Then day trips. An overnight to a local hotel. A two day road trip to somewhere close by. A three day stay at at a theme park. A week long trip that includes an airplane ride and new experiences.
  2. Do your research. If your child only eats five foods, be sure to check out the restaurant’s menus before you travel to make sure they serve one of the five foods your child will eat. Does the destination have activities or attractions that are of high interest to your child?
  3. Understand your child’s boundaries. Be realistic with your travel expectations. It’s probably not realistic to expect your child with Autism to go from 8 a.m. to 10 p.m. without a sensory break, so be sure to plan your day with several breaks for lunch and quiet time. If your child has an aversion to loud noises, perhaps skip the fireworks show at the end of the day.
  4. Always be willing to push your child slightly beyond their comfort zone. Temple Grandin calls this the “loving push.” When it comes to travel, sometimes you have no idea what your child will and will not like to do, so be open to trying new things. It may not work out and may fail miserably, and if it does, at least you had your child try something new and you now know you can cross that activity off the list.
  5. Have a back-up plan. When we do travel activities that my son may struggle with, we always have a back-up plan, in case he’s not willing to go beyond his comfort zone. For example, a few years ago, we planned an activity that had our family crossing a suspension bridge. I spoke with the Tour Guides ahead of time and explained that my son has Autism and anxiety. I wasn’t sure if, when the moment came, he would be able to cross that bridge. The Tour Guide and I came up with a back-up plan, that if he froze and couldn’t cross, there would be a golf cart waiting for him, ready to take him to the end point, and we could continue on from there. Ultimately, he surprised us all and crossed with no problem, but the back-up plan was in place, just in case.
  6. Use a Certified Autism Travel Professional. While you know your child best, research can be daunting! Why not use a Certified Autism Travel Professional to help you plan? They can recommend destinations and activities that will best suit your family and your child’s needs.

Sheraton Hotel Latest to Become Certified Autism Center



Parents with children on the autism spectrum often find vacationing to be a challenge due to sensory needs, dietary restrictions and safety concerns. The Sheraton Park Hotel at the Anaheim Resort is the latest destination to become a Certified Autism Center to help ensure guests and families with children who have autism have the best possible experience.

The Sheraton Park Hotel at the Anaheim Resort currently offers a program called MAX, which is short for Member of Autism Care Services and named in honor of Max Behura, a boy with autism who – along with his older brother, Alexander – inspired Sheraton to recognize the need for such a program. As a continuation of the program’s goals, the hotel recently became a certified destination through the International Board of Credentialing and Continuing Education Standards (IBCCES).

For almost 20 years, IBCCES has been the industry leader in autism training for licensed healthcare professionals and educators around the globe. IBCCES recognized that many families with children with special needs have limited travel options. In response to this need, IBCCES created training and certification programs specifically for the hospitality and travel industry. While many destinations tout “autism-friendly” options, this phrase is a generic term that does not necessarily indicate a true understanding of these families’ requirements. More parents are now seeking out destinations that have undergone research-based training and professional review to ensure the best experience possible. IBCCES also created, 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 requirements, which include extensive staff training and an on-site audit conducted by leading autism experts.

“We’re proud to partner with Autism Travel and IBCCES to extend the benefits of the MAX Program to families visiting Southern California and the Disneyland area. When developing the program, many of us on the hotel team were impacted by the stories shared regarding challenges encountered in travel by ASD families and we set about trying to provide some relief,” said Ian Gee, general manager of the Sheraton Park Hotel at the Anaheim Resort. “With guidance from behavioral specialists and direct input by our ‘adopted’ ASD family we are now ready to welcome you, to offer care and amenities tailored to your family’s needs and ensuring you some rest and relaxation during your visit. At Sheraton our goal is to go ‘above and beyond’ for all our guests, but we recognize the opportunity to do more is sometimes needed.”

While research shows that travel is one of the most intellectually stimulating events for individuals on the spectrum, there are still few trained and certified travel options for parents looking for destinations able to accommodate their needs. Organizations like IBCCES and industry leaders such as Sheraton Park Hotel are working to change that.

“Our goal is to partner with the leading travel destinations in the world to create safe, sensory-compatible travel options for parents and individuals on the spectrum. Our Certified Autism Center designation is awarded to premier organizations around the globe who have completed rigorous training and meet the highest industry standards,” said Myron Pincomb, IBCCES Board Chairman.


About Sheraton Park Hotel at the Anaheim Resort

Surrounded by world-famous Disneyland® theme parks, shopping, dining and entertainment, Sheraton Park Hotel at the Anaheim Resort is at the heart of the best things to do in Southern California. As a Disneyland® family hotel, we offer a comfortable and inviting space for your family’s vacation or business trip. With you in mind, we’ve transformed our hotel with a multi-million dollar renovation to offer a space that’s perfect for your cast of characters.  While you are here, relax amongst our tropical surroundings while enjoying a host of amenities in one of our 490 refreshed guest rooms.

More holiday travel tips


Submitted by Taveesha Guyton

The holiday season is upon us, and this usually means travel plans.  If you are a parent traveling with children, this can be stressful. If you are a parent traveling with a child with special needs such as Autism, a family’s stress level can be magnified.  Here are a few tips to help families traveling with children who have special needs:

Read more »

Creating Your Sensory Travel Toolkit


By: Nicole Thibault, Magical Storybook Travels


fireworks thibault blog

Traveling with any child can be a challenging experience, but traveling with a child that has Sensory Processing Disorder or Autism can be especially trying for parents. Children with Sensory Processing issues can be overly-sensitive to sights, sounds, textures, flavors, smells and other sensory input. While parents can regulate the sensory inputs at home and in their daily routines, the sights, sounds and smells while on vacation can be daunting for a child with Sensory Processing issues and can cause major meltdowns. Our family goes on several trips per year, and my sons with Sensory Processing issues sometimes need assistance with the sensory overload that can occur in the airport/airplane, hotels, theme parks and other places.

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Travel Tips from TSA


Shared with permission from Susan Buckland, TSA

I am writing to share some important tips to help you better prepare for security screening at our Nation’s airport screening checkpoints for the 2017 holiday traveling season. Wait times and long lines are expected to increase as more people travel during the holidays. With this in mind, the following tips may help you better prepare for screening:

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“You’re not treated as guests, you’re treated as family.”


By Dr. Chris O’Shea

Beaches Ocho Rios

We are recently back from another family trip to Beaches Ocho Rios. We were aware of the recent IBCCES certification of the resort and were curious as to how this would affect our trip. The staff was wonderful as always. As returning guests, we were welcomed as soon as our van stopped. Our understanding was that Kids Camp and pool staff had received training for working with children on the spectrum. We were also pleasantly surprised to learn that the manager at each restaurant and one of the servers had also received training. At dinner, one of the staff who didn’t know our normal pattern asked about the kids. We explained that they had Asperger’s/Autism and she explained that she was one of the staff who had received IBCCES training. This was helpful information as we were unaware that training had been extended to restaurant staff. I could see that it would be of a substantial benefit to many families.

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My Special Boy With Needs


By Angela Drews-Weaver

We are a blended family of five. I am a step-mom, adopted mom and a birth mom. My adopted son has sensory issues, anxiety, ADD fetal alcohol, as well as is on the spectrum. He is a wonderful, delightful little boy who doesn’t quite understand his needs. It can be challenging going to the grocery store with him, let alone plan a vacation.

I am an on-the-go kind of person. As my husband says, I can’t sit still. So every day I have to plan my day and pick and choose what’s in the best interest for my son as well as the rest of the family. It’s so stressful trying to find the right fit for my son. Read more »