Champion Autism Network works to train resorts and restaurants to accommodate those with autism
February 1, 2021
Vacationing at Myrtle Beach means there is entertainment for people of all ages, whether that be rides, attractions, bars or restaurants. However, the lights and music of Myrtle Beach may seem overwhelming for people who are sensitive to crowds, bright lights and blaring noises. That is why the Champion Autism Network (CAN) has been working to make Myrtle Beach -and the Grand Strand in general- more welcoming to those who have autism or are on the autism spectrum.
Autism Spectrum Disorders (ASDs) are developmental disabilities that affect how a person perceives and interacts with others. These disorders can be mild to severe, causing people to feel anxious in overwhelming social situations.
The Champion Autism Network, headed by Becky Large, has worked to train restaurants, movie theaters and resorts on becoming more autism friendly. This organization has allowed families on vacation to be able to stay in a resort or eat out in certain restaurants with CAN-certified staff. Large says that businesses can easily adjust their atmospheres without spending a lot of money or making drastic changes.
“It doesn’t cost anything to turn down the lights and turn down the music and have kind staff who are open and not judgmental [in restaurants],” Large said.
Other means by which Myrtle Beach has expanded its autism-friendly project include adding quiet rooms in resorts, noise-cancelling headphones at attractions, and nighttime, autism-friendly events at aquariums. Through these changes, Myrtle Beach is one of the few autism-friendly vacation destinations in the country and has received positive feedback from families with children or family members on the autism spectrum.
Lydia Vereen (12) has family who lives in Myrtle Beach and visits them frequently. She is encouraged by the increase in autism-friendly services and businesses around the city.
“I go to Myrtle Beach a lot, and I think it’s important that they are becoming more inclusive,” Vereen said.
Teacher Hannah Land has helped to make Spartanburg High School more inclusive to people on the autism spectrum by pushing for noise-cancelling headphones to be provided at football games, which are often overstimulating and loud.
“All families and friend groups, regardless of their differences, want to and should be included in everyday activities,” Land said. “Making our day-to-day activities accessible for all individuals is so important!”
Land encourages students to ask questions and do research in order to be more aware and compassionate toward people who struggle with sensory sensitivities.
“Taking a minute to ask ‘How can I help?’ makes all the difference in the world and leads to being even more compassionate and understanding in the future,” Land said. “Since I work with individuals with sensory sensitivities, I am always more than welcome to answer questions and help others be more aware of different sensory sensitivities that people may encounter.”