April is Autism Awareness Month and the travel industry is working to become more autism-friendly with special events and deals for families. NY1's Valarie D'Elia filed the following report.
Cruising with your family is designed to be relaxing, but for some it takes work. Laurie Lettieri, the mom of a special needs son, is sailing for the second time with Royal Caribbean, the first cruise line to garner a seal of approval fleetwide from a travel agency called Autism on the Seas.
"It is a challenge, but we want to be able to do the things that everyone else does," says Lettieri.
"We've achieved certification in making sure that our products and services that we offered on board, are autism-friendly, and accommodate families with autism onboard our cruise ships," says Ron Pettit, ADA & Access Compliant Consultant for Royal Caribbean Cruise Line.
For instance, it offers various dietary choices, autism-friendly movies and special modifications within the youth program.
"We were sent a bunch of toys and we created this toy lending program where a family can come to us and take these bags with them either to their stateroom or when they go out on port or anywhere around the ship," explains "Adventure Ocean" Manager Patty Martinez.
Cruising isn't the only facet of the travel industry catering to autistic kids. The Philadelphia Zoo has an accessible children’s division called KidsZooU, ensuring that every child can safely connect with wildlife.
Also in Philly, serving the special needs of children with autism, is the Please Touch Museum with inclusive exhibits, programs and public spaces.
Sesame Place, the Pennsylvania theme park based on Sesame Street characters, celebrates Autism Awareness Month with a dedicated day on Sunday, April 27th. Sponsored by ‘Variety’ a children’s charity. It is free to qualifying families, but parking is $25.