Explore the life-changing journey of the Callafange family as they discover autism-certified travel options, a beacon of inclusivity and understanding in the travel industry.
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Hey fellow travelers,
We recently came across a touching story we just had to share with all of you.
It is about how autism-certified travel options are transforming the lives of families.
This transformation is most vividly seen through the experiences of Flavia Callafange and her beautiful 14-year-old daughter, Felicia.
The Travel Struggles for Families Touched by Autism
Imagine feeling the gaze of others judging you as a “bad parent” because your child, who has autism, is simply expressing herself uniquely.
Flavia used to experience such hurtful incidents regularly during her travels with Felicia.
The energetic and friendly Felicia sometimes comes off as “aggressive” to people unaware of her condition, making traveling a challenging experience for both of them.
According to the CDC, 1 in 36 children in the U.S. are on the autism spectrum.
However, sadly, due to a lack of autism-friendly travel options, only 13% of families with an autistic member go on vacations, a 2019 survey reveals.
A Dream Trip to New York
However, everything changed for the Callafange family last summer.
They took Felicia’s dream trip to New York, a journey filled with visits to the American Girl Store, Broadway shows, and the unwavering company of her doll, Miriel.
This trip was special because of the destination and because they chose autism-certified brands for their travel and stay.
This meant that their facilities were well-equipped to accommodate Felicia’s needs, offering a level of understanding and support previously missing from their travel experiences.
Airlines Stepping Up
During their journey, Flavia and Felicia flew with LATAM Airlines, one of the few companies that have embraced autism certification through their partnership with Autism Double-Checked.
This organization enhances autism awareness and education in the travel industry.
They also introduced a neat concept where Flavia and Felicia wore lanyards from the Hidden Disabilities Sunflower initiative, signaling they might need extra understanding and support.
This simple change meant that the flight attendants were more understanding and accommodating, ensuring Felicia could travel comfortably, even allowing her to be the first to leave the plane to ease her anxiety.
Accommodating Stays at Virgin Hotels
Their heartwarming story continued at the Virgin Hotels New York City, where every staff member had training to assist guests with different needs, making them feel welcomed and respected.
The staff’s empathy and patience towards Felicia were a breath of fresh air for Flavia, who saw her daughter treated with the kindness and understanding she deserved.
David Moth, the vice president of operations at Virgin Hotels, highlighted the crucial role of such training, emphasizing that it ensures every guest feels safe and understood, regardless of their unique needs.
Introducing Autism Concierge
Taking hospitality a notch higher, Karisma Hotels & Resorts has introduced an Autism Concierge service.
It is a dedicated contact point for guests to address all autism-related queries to make their stay “seamless as possible.”
It is a thoughtful step towards inclusivity, ensuring guests get a personalized experience catered to their needs.
Forward Steps in the Industry
This journey was a profound one for the Callafanges, witnessing firsthand the sea change in the industry’s approach towards inclusivity.
They are advocates for a more empathetic and caring world for individuals with visible and invisible disabilities.
What we learn from their incredible journey is that with a small quantity of understanding, respect, and proper arrangements, the travel industry can open up a world of opportunities for families with autistic members, a sentiment echoed by Alan Day, the Co-founder and CEO of Autism Double-Checked.
The Callafange family’s story highlights the remarkable strides the travel industry is taking to become more inclusive.
It is an enlightening example that shows that with the right awareness and tools, the travel industry can create harmonious experiences for everyone, respecting all backgrounds and abilities.
I hope this tale of understanding and inclusivity inspires many more families and businesses to take steps towards a more inclusive world, one trip at a time!
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