Q&A with Lou Giuffre of LifePROTEKT alert system

Please tell our readers about your product.

LifePROTEKT is not about one product but about a bunch of safety products that represent the category of Personal Location Based GPS and Wandering Prevention Devices. Our products also fit into the fall detection PERS (Personal Emergency Response System) space.

The solutions we provide come from manufacturers like Securatrac, Amber Alert GPS, Gps Connect, Lok8u, Pocket finder, Laipac, and Harbor Technologies to name a few. We provide the latest GPS and remote health monitoring technologies to help find and care for those that can easily get lost or want to live independent lives.

When did you first think of the product and what lead to its development.


 Four years ago, LifePROTEKT was created to show our appreciation to those families, individuals and organizations who are patrons of wandering prevention and GPS  location technology.

The LifePROTEKT website was conceived to serve as an informational site presenting topics of interest to those in the autism, Alzheimer’s and special needs communities. Our primary concern is to try to remedy the one symptom that these communities have in common– wandering! Our management team has a long history of involvement with the autism, Alzheimer’s and special needs communities.
We have worked with various autism organizations promoting awareness for over a decade. We are dedicated to educating others, as 1 out of every 91 children born today is born on the autism spectrum. We believe it is paramount to draw attention to this epidemic, which is growing in mass proportion.

It is LifePROTEKT’s intention to contribute financially to education and research efforts as we to present information and solutions that can give special needs families a better sense of security and can be used as another tool to help keep their loved ones safe.

How can your product improve autistic travel?

With many wandering-related instances in the autism community, our products can be used as a safeguard to an accidental or unlawful situation from occurring. For example, the technology we provide can allow a parent or caregiver to set up a predefined perimeter or geofence around the vacation resort, theme park, or relative’s house or neighborhood.

If the individual wearing one of our devices breaks the boundary or geofence, the caregiver or parent will receive an immediate SMS alert or email to their smart or cell phone. If the caregiver or parent has a smartphone a Google map can be pulled up showing the exact location of the individual wearing the device.

Knowing that these devices create a safety net or peace of mind for the caregivers should improve travel for anyone concerned about wandering loved ones as it related to anyone one that may have the propensity to wander. There are GPS products that we have that will work in over 120 different countries around the world and work using the AT&T Network, so additional service related charges are not incurred. A list of countries can be provided if necessary.

Have you approached any hotel chains or cruise ship companies that wanted to use your product?

Although currently we are not working with any direct hotel chains or cruise ship companies we have been approached by many. Right now our vertical focus is on the individual needs, home health care, and law enforcement communities with some emphasis on recreational and theme park resorts.

We have been working with some of the world’s largest theme parks to define further how are solutions will help prevent children from getting lost. We believe that by 2011 we will have a contract with one of the largest theme parks in the world as we have been engaged for well over one year.

 Does your company have any new ideas that would help autistic travel brewing in the pipeline?

Autistic travel is becoming more adaptable as large organizations see the increase of population in this community. Over the past few years, we have seen specialized theme parks and hotel chains adapting to the needs of the sensory issues of our special needs loved ones. LifePROTEKT wants the caregivers and parents of these special loved ones to know that the technologies we represent our cutting edge and represent the latest and greatest solutions to protect the individuals that have the propensity to wander.
In one of our products, there is a feature that identifies the location of the residence of known sex offenders and will send out an alert to the caregiver or parent that will notify them if the child comes within a particular predetermined footage of the registered sex offender.

Many of our devices are also two-way voice cell phones and have S.O.S panic buttons that allow the parent or caregiver to have instant contact via voice to communicate to the individual.

This is a great feature for a child who is unable to carry a cell phone but needs that ability to stay in touch in case of an emergency. Other additional services LifePROTEKT now provides tie directly into a 24/7 emergency call center operation. In case the caregiver or parent does not have access to the alerts sent by the wearer, the notification will go to an authorized call center monitoring station that ties right into the 911 call center. The benefit of this solution is not only that someone at all times knows there is a problem with the person in need, and they will also know the location of that individual.

 

 

 

 


Inn at Harbor Town Hilton Head

      The greatness of a five-star establishment lies in its ability to modify itself to the needs of its different patrons, and its never-ending capacity to solve any issues that hamper planned stays. The Inn at the Harbor Town, Sea Pines Hilton Head fits this description to perfection.
Inn at Harbor Town Hilton Head bellman

The service

 

We have stayed at this amazing property, several years in a row always enjoying the wonderful hospitality. This year we unexpectedly encountered some unforeseen ‘glitches’.
It started with arriving at a balcony street facing room after I specifically requested a quiet room, continuing with getting our booking dates wrong and culminating with various minor room malfunctions.

The front desk managers, Sarah, and Andrew , were on top of the situations and solved them patiently and graciously.Moreover, all staff was enthusiastic and helpful.  I had the opportunity to speak the hotel manager Attila, who assured me that he and his team would go the extra mile to work with families of special needs persons, including offering those rooms facing the golf course with a large window, which we got instead of the noisier balcony one. He also said he would look into my suggestion of other child proofing the rooms and teaching his staff to become more autistic aware.
Inn at Harbor Town Hilton Head Island drinks

 The hotel is cozy, sixty-five rooms in all, about five hundred square feet each, built about ten years ago on the southern side of Hilton Head Island, as part of the Sea Pines Resort Plantation.

Fellow guests include business people that come to attend conferences as well as families who come to enjoy the beach.
The property is meticulously decorated in a colonial style with beautifully carved last century wooden furniture. The inviting lobby has multiple comfortable seating areas, a library, complete with TV and computer access, as well as manicured shaded patio areas featuring fountains, lawns, and walkways. The careful attention to details is evident throughout the resort and can be seen from the moment you arrive and are welcomed by the bellman dressed in a Scottish quilt even on the humid hot summer days. One can find fresh refreshments like coffee, lemonades, and cold water all day long in the lobby.

Inn at Harbor Town Hilton Head Island lobby 

Our Room

Our room had two queen beds, a lounge chair, and two sitting chairs as well as a desk and a flat-screen TV on top of a spacious dresser. Our bathroom, all marble, offered both a shower as well a separate sunken tub, rather oversized vanity and commode.

The property has two restaurants that serve breakfast, lunch and dinner, but visitors can go to the neighboring resorts for more selections.

Inn at Harbor Town Hilton Head beds 
The best time to visit late spring and early summer, especially for families with younger kids including those with autism.
The soft sandy beach alongside the shallow almost waves free fewer waters are a winning combination for many ocean fearing persons or sand loathing ones. Our son, riddled with sensory issues fell in love with swimming and now tolerates walks on the beach.

Hilton Head offers many other outdoor activities guests can try like kayaking, biking, horseback riding to dolphin or alligator watching cruises.

Autism Travel Tips

  • Request a quiet room with no balcony facing the golf course and not the tennis courts.
  • Bring your night light and bath mat.
  • Check out the free kids activities offered on selected days.

 

The Autistic Friendly Carnival Legend

 

We arrived at Tampa pier at two o’clock, after finding out they started boarding by one.After notifying one of the porters that we are traveling with special needs persons, they called their supervisor immediately, and we received VIP treatment.
Aldona, a Carnival superior took us to an air conditioned lounge and took care of our embarkation paperwork in less than five minutes.
A unique port security person accompanied us, carrying our luggage on a trolley up to the autistic friendly Carnival Legend ‘s entrance.

The Autistic Friendly Carnival Legend SHIP

The ship

The muster drill was a breeze too-Carnival provided a special enough air conditioned lounge for the special needs persons.

Moreover, the crew members handed out a printed page with instructions on what to do in case of a real emergency.

The Autistic Friendly Carnival Legend DESSERT
Dining

In the main dining room, our excellent Maitre D’, Ken made sure we had a separate table for four.He came every night to make sure Jeffrey got his blue cheese dressing for his salad!Our servers were excellent and remembered everyone’s likes and dislikes, especially our son’s.
On the very last night, they even surprised him with two portions of bread pudding that were not on the menu.Everyone in the main dining room was extremely helpful during breakfast and lunch times too, catering patiently to our every need.We enjoyed both formal nights, especially since the boys were not required to wear a jacket, tie, or even a long sleeve shirt.
Instead, I brought short sleeve, button down, pure silk Hawaiian shirts [twenty dollars at our local costco], and soft cotton long pants from Nordstrom’s, that magically make even huge lobster butter stains disappear, in contact with soap detergent and water, for them to wear.

The Autistic Friendly Carnival Legend SURF TURF

Our Cabin

Our room steward was equally helpful, supplying our room with extra towels, pillows, and sheets on a daily basis. After complaining about the warm temperature in our room, and the technician’s failure to correct the issue, the chief engineer came to our cabin in person to oversee what could be done.
Moreover, the hotel manager came to our table, in person, to ask us if everything had been corrected.

 

The Autistic Friendly Carnival Legend CABIN

On the third day, the boys each got a bag of goodies from Club O2, accompanied by a personal invitation.They politely declined, but enjoyed the gift bag nonetheless.
The truth is we were all pretty tired from the daily trips we took and chose to bond as a family over the great option the cruise line offers of pay-per-view movies in the room.Room service, a favorite with most kids, was unusually fast with orders, even at peak hours.

The Autistic Friendly Carnival Legend FRIENDS

The captain was gracious to sign Jeff’s ceramic ship model, while Wee Jimmy, the Legend’s cruise director gave him a ship on a stick.Needless to say, Jeff’s was floating in souvenir heaven.

Luckily, we managed to visit all our intended ports of Grand Cayman, Belize, Roatan and Cozumel but did get some windy days from the end tail of tropical storm turned hurricane, Alex.

The Autistic Friendly Carnival Legend CAYMAN

The important lesson to learn is that during hurricane season you should book your shore tours through the cruise ship, especially in ports that require tendering, as you never know when the high winds will pick up and change your plans!

In the Grand Cayman, we visited the sandbar with stingrays and a turtle farm, both great sensory, and educational tools. Skip the little town of Hell which is a store selling funny t-shirts with an owner dressed as the devil, unless you want to sample a different sensory perspective of surprise hugging and kissing.

The Autistic Friendly Carnival Legend ROATAN

Snorkeling in Roatan and Belize was amazing, and I do have to commend the tiny local sand flies that are ever so polite, you don’t even notice when they come, bite and leave.Even better is the fact the bite sites do not itch and disappear overnight.

The Autistic Friendly Carnival Legend PARROTS

In Cozumel, we opted to explore the Eco park of Xcaret, with its caves, lazy river, zoos and turquoise lagoon.If you ever decide to go, make sure you pay a visit to the magnificent butterfly garden and the rainbow colored macaws that use discarded feathers to clean out their beaks!

The Autistic Friendly Carnival Legend HAMMOCK

Disembarkation was an easy affair too, and we reached Tampa airport in plenty of time to spare, after using Alamo’s free shuttle.Completing the memorable experience, United Airlines decided to upgrade the four of us to first class on the Tampa-Dulles segment and to Business class on the Dulles-Los Angeles flight, by itself a memorable event on a historic day.

Happy July 4th everyone!

Why I finally ditched my fabric black suitcases

Why I finally ditched my fabric black suitcases color
One of the most important things I have learned by traveling as frequently as I do; is never to own a black suitcase ever again!

As someone who has spent endless hours around conveyor belts in different airports across multiple continents, I can testify that one of the most frustrating vacation pastimes can be trying to figure out which suitcase is yours from a plethora of seemingly identical others. Now, envision that same scenario, after a delayed red-eye,  flying on a multi-segment international flight with a cranky kid with autism, and how the already complex situation can become a full blown disaster in a matter of a New York minute.

My secret is buying the ugliest patterns or hideously-colored suitcases I can find and that most consumers would not consider purchasing. Moreover, I usually buy them in batches of six identical ones, four to travel with, and two extra ones that are my ‘spares’ (in case one breaks and my pattern is discontinued).I seek these ‘hidden hideous treasures’ in outlet stores like TJ Maxx or  Overstock.com.

 

The luggage I currently use is a hard shell version by Olympia with large hippie 60’s  flower pattern that sticks out like a sore thumb. The design is the one that you can quickly detect on the long windy conveyor belt and stop anyone from trying to walk away with it since it can be easily spotted across the airport arrivals room. As a result, everyone in my family can actively participate in retrieving our four identical pieces of luggage off the conveyor belt, thus enabling us to exit the airport faster.

I don’t especially believe in buying high ended expensive brands, as I’ve had expensive suitcases smashed, torn or destroyed just as frequently as their cheaper counterparts.Like I mentioned before I tend to chose quality over quantity and buy bags in batches of four or eight so I can easily replace one if and when it gets damaged.However, there are  two features I do check carefully before I purchase luggage: the weight of the suitcase since on domestic flights there are significant weight restrictions and  how well the  wheels  swivel since I have a shoulder injury .in my case I look for wheels that can rotate 360 degrees so the suitcase can be moved in any direction -forward, backward and even sideways if need be.
The new hard-shelled suitcases that have become increasingly popular do have several advantages over their fabric or leather competition.They are light, swivel and are almost unwelcoming to bedbugs (just remember to zip them shut in the hotel or cabin)—but they do have a higher chance of being bashed in and resembling a traumatized car bumper.

We have recently switched to the hard-shells swiveling suitcases but have yet to take them on long-haul flights with multiple stops. I guess we’ll just have to adopt a wait-and-see approach on how they weather the severe manhandling practiced in airports nowadays.

I think it couldn’t be worse than the time we flew back from Fort Lauderdale to Los Angeles and had all six fabric suitcases destroyed.

Cabin Accommodations for Travelers with Autism

Cabin Accommodations for Travelers with Autism pin

For parents of kids with autism, one of the best tips I can give when taking a cruise is to get the kids acclimated to their cabin as fast as possible.The key to doing that is communicating with the cabin steward efficiently and relaying the necessary accommodations to him or her as soon as possible. For those not acquainted with how to do so here are a few useful tips to follow so you can get the necessary cabin accommodations for travelers with Autism.

Meet your cabin attendant as soon as possible

Try to meet your room steward as soon as possible after boarding, since it might be necessary to make certain adjustments to your cabin.Be patient, courteous and remember they are busy and tired, particularly on embarkation days when they wake up early and have the task of clearing the cabins to prepare them for next travelers.After the usual pleasantries exchange , asks him or her for the following cabin accommodations.

Clear the fridge

Ask the steward to clean out the cabin fridge of sodas, snacks and alcohol as soon as possible so you can store your foods and beverages that you bring back from the buffet or room service to help with those late night hunger attacks.
Another good reason to do so is the sensors on the fridge door might falsely charge your cabin account for an item even though you only moved it to a different location inside the refrigerator to make room for your bottle of water.
Carnival Legend:Towel Animal

Remove  Breakables 

To avoid accidents injuries or damages ask for any breakable objects like standing lamps, glass tops and mirrors to be removed from the cabin especially if your kid has a history of meltdowns s or likes to touch everything.
Inquire about the availability of guard rails for the lower beds if you are concerned your child is in danger of falling out of bed.

Ask for hypo-allergenic bedding 

If you have a pronounced feather allergy like I do, ask for hypoallergenic bedding (including pillows and blankets) as well as a complete change of your bed linens to make sure there aren’t any allergen residues on the bed.
Most cabins have the possibility of separating the large main bed into two twins, so you might want the room steward to do that for you as soon as possible. Not only will it provide you with a slightly larger area to move about, but it also might be helpful if your young family members decide to play “musical beds” and switch beds in the middle of the night.
If your family members enjoy afternoon naps tell your steward you would like the beds ready 24/7 otherwise you might find the top bunks or sofabed closed till the evening.

Cabin Accommodations 4 Travelers With Autism:Our Cabin

Request  an extra tv remote control and  additional seating

Getting an extra TV remote and chairs to sit on is always a good idea as most cabins have one single seat that is not enough for a family of four.Extra chairs might prove helpful as an additional door block if your child wanders and needs to be stopped from exiting the room at night.

Ask for extra  linens

If your child has ‘night accidents’ or suffers from OCD  and takes several showers during the day you need more than your usual linen and towel allotment. It is much easier to get extra supplies in the cabin ahead of time than to sit on the phone with guest services begging for the items in the middle of the night.

Ask  to turn the room speaker volume off

If your child is noise sensitive, the loud daily announcements will bother him or her so it is better to turn the volume off inside the cabin.You can still listen to the reports by opening the cabin door or reading the daily newsletter.

Tips For Boarding A Cruise Ship With Autism

Tips For Boarding A Cruise Ship With Autism muster drill     

Boarding a cruise ship is exciting, but it can also be stressful if one travels with kids, especially ones with autism.
You get past security, enter the cabin to put your luggage and at that point, all everyone wants is to relax.
However, when traveling with autism, it is imperative to check on certain accommodations to make sure that everything will run smoothly and that everyone including your child with autism will enjoy the vacation.
If you haven’t cruised before and aren’t sure what to do here are some tips for boarding a cruise ship with Autism to start you off on the right path.

  The VIP desk

Make sure you fill all the pre-boarding paperwork online and arrive at the pier an hour after the initial crowds board the ship.This way, the check-in lines are less crowded, and the staff is less stressed and more helpful.
If your kid with autism cannot wait in-line, head on to the VIP/handicap desk equipped with your medical documents, and ask for expedited embarkation.

Don’t use porters

The best way to ensure both the safety of your luggage along with your quick embarkation or disembarkation is to carry your suitcases onboard on your own.Luggage for your kid with autism may include special medications, clothing, bedding and toys that might not readily be available to re-purchase if destroyed or lost (which will lead to meltdowns that can ruin the family’s trip) should be handled solely by you.
Clearly,  this suggestion is not for everybody, as it does translate into fewer items packed, and might not prove feasible to some.

Head on to the Service Desk

  • Ask to do the muster drill in an air-conditioned room, or if you can send a representative from your group to the muster drill. Make sure later that evening to take your entire group to the assigned evacuation spot so you will know exactly where it is.
  • Ask the customer service representative to make sure that your kid cannot charge anything to their ship card, including at the video games arcade onboard.Also, ask to block the pay-per-view in the room option, so you don’t get charged for the same movie 51 times  (happened to us, true story) when you have a child enamored with pressing buttons continuously like mine.
  • Be advised that all cruise lines provide all kids under the age of eleven with an ID bracelet, to help during emergencies. If your child cannot wear one, ask if you can replace it with a tag attached to his/her clothing at all times, or look into those non-permanent tattoos you can stick on during the cruise. Wearing an ID is an important safety issue, and any problems with it need to be addressed with the ship’s personnel.If your child likes shows but is noise or light-sensitive, remember to request reserved back and aisle seating for the evening shows, so you can skip waiting in the long lines and exit the theater fast without disturbing anyone.
  • If your child wishes to attend the kids’ club, onboard you should seek a meeting with the supervisor and or youth counselor to tell them in person, of any needs your child has.Boarding time is also the time to double check that any pre-bookings you made to restaurants, shows, and shore excursions are recorded correctly to avoid possible mishaps.

In the Cabin

  • Make sure you meet and chat with your cabin attendant as soon as possible, so he or she knows what accommodations your child needs.This way your child will feel comfortable in the cabin from the very first day.
  • If you are cruising a ship that offers specialized dining and you have made  any booking: check to see that your bookings are in order and that the restaurant staff knows of any special diet or request.

Autism Travel Tips for Travel Agents

Autism travel is a growing untapped segment of the travel industry that has yet to be adequately addressed.
By CDC estimates, there are over 2 million kids with autism under 18 in the US alone. Accompanied by a minimum of one caregiver the number of potential autism-related travelers easily jumps to 4 million, and that does not take into account additional family members or adults with autism.

So, it should come as no surprise travel agents are becoming increasingly interested in obtaining more information to understand the needs of travelers with autism better.Since there is no difference between planning a vacation for a family whose child has autism and a family with a neurotypical child except for specific accommodations, I thought that creating a list of starter tips would be helpful for many agents.

Autism Travel Tips for Travel Agents sign

Photo credit Balycon charts

Airline travel

  • Arrange for pre-boarding and for bulk or aisle seating if your client has involuntary movements such as stimming.
  • Seat your traveler away from galleys and lavatories if he /she are smell or noise sensitive.
  • Notify the airline in advance if there are any food allergies or special diets.
  • Avoid booking long layovers or multiple connections.

Cruises

  • Arrange for pre-boarding
  • Book a mid ship cabin away from noise venues and elevators if your traveler is sound or motion sensitive.
  • Do not book balcony cabins or cabins next to exits if the child tends to wander off.
  • Ask if the child is verbal or communicates through sign language or electronic device as that will impact any kids’ club experience.
  • Notify the cruise line in advance of pertinent food allergies and special diets and if special food needs to be brought on board by parents.
  • Arrange for a separate more secluded dining table if the child is noise sensitive.

Hotels

  • Check with hotel officials about booking a room away from exits as well as the possibility of providing extra locks on room door if the child has a tendency to wander off.
  • Ask for quiet rooms on higher floors away from vending machines, elevators, parking lots, swimming pools, golf courses and beachfront if your traveler is noise sensitive.
  • Ask to book a room with no sliding doors and mirrors if your client has spatial coordination issues.
  • Notify the hotel of any specific allergies to fabrics or products your traveler has.
  • Ask if the client needs help delivering any particular foods or medical equipment to the hotel room

Day tours

  • Ask the parent about the child’s energy capacity and ability to tolerate full day versus half day trips.
  • Know whether the child is temperature sensitive and how well he or she can tolerate outdoor activities like walking tours.
  • Clarify any fears or anxieties the child might have of animals or crowds that might interfere with some itineraries.
  • Know ahead of time whether the traveler is noise or light sensitive since that can impact attending firework shows.
  • Notify tour operators of any food allergies or special diets required.

    Other

  • Ask whether the family needs special transportation to and from airports, ports or rail stations.
  • Provide the travelers with a 24-hour line or email to contact you if anything goes wrong.

Q&A with Clive Ireland’s Autism Service Dog Extraordinaire

Q&A with Clive -Ireland's Autism Service Dog Extraordinaire tulips

 What qualities are recommended for an assistance dog?

Assistance Dogs need patience, a sense of fun, a willingness to play and a great sense of responsibility. Assistance Dogs need to love children and accept and understand that they are working with children with special needs. Just like our cat knows Murray is special and the horses he rides instinctively know and understand Murray and his needs—I understand Murray, and we work well together. I was trained by Irish Guide Dogs for the Blind, who train dogs for the blind and visually impaired and for children with autism.

Q&A with Clive -Ireland's Autism Service Dog Extraordinaire disney paris

I was puppy walked by a volunteer puppy walking family for the first ten months of my life and then I went back to the Guide Dog Training Centre where I had my intensive training to qualify as an Assistance Dog. I was thoroughly trained and working by the age of 18 months and was the first Golden doodle Assistance Dog in Ireland. My three brothers Clint, Chad, and Cash all went on to become Guide Dogs.

Q&A with Clive -Ireland's Autism Service Dog Extraordinaire parade

What does an assistance dog pack in his suitcase?

My coat needs a lot of maintenance, so I always travel with a selection of brushes and combs to keep my coat in tip top condition. I also pack my favorite blanket that I sleep on when we go to new places.

Q&A with Clive -Ireland's Autism Service Dog Extraordinaire friends

What transportation methods have you experienced, and which one is your favorite?

Planes, trains, and automobiles–I’ve been in them all. I’m in the car every day and love travelling with Murray. I lie beside him, usually on the back seat of the car, with my head on his lap so he can pet me. I’ve travelled to Belgium, France and Spain on planes and, as a service dog, I am allowed to sit at Murray’s feet on the aircraft. Every time we have travelled the airlines have been especially useful and have allocated an extra seat to us— so I have plenty of room. Planes are my favorite because it usually means a fascinating holiday!

Q&A with Clive -Ireland's Autism Service Dog Extraordinaire ball park

How do you pass airport checkpoints?

On check-in at Dublin Airport, I just produce my pet passport, plus a letter from Murray’s doctor confirming that he is on the autistic spectrum and needs to have me travelling with him. I never have any difficulty flying out of Dublin airport or returning home to Ireland. Sometimes we have to answer a few extra questions, but usually, we get only help and assistance. At the security gate, I walk through ahead of Murray and the security officer often opens the pockets on my working jacket just to check what I carry inside (poop bags only!)

Q&A with Clive -Ireland's Autism Service Dog Extraordinaire fountain

On arrival back in Dublin airport I have to check in with the vet at the Department of Agriculture office in the baggage reclaim section; the vet checks my pet passport, gives my micro-chip a quick read, and makes sure I had been tick and flea-treated within the previous 48 hours before I flew home.

Q&A with Clive -Ireland's Autism Service Dog Extraordinaire mountains


Do you get any perks in hotels or restaurants?  

Usually not, I am a working dog and just expect to be allowed in to accompany Murray. I am not allowed to eat or drink in a restaurant—I have had my meals beforehand—and I always decline the offer of food or water from the waiting staff. Some will insist I need something to eat, but Murray’s mom always explains ‘not while working!’. Some restaurants can be a little hesitant about having a dog (even a service dog), and Murray’s mom has an ID card from Irish Guide Dogs, which she shows the staff, explaining that I am fully entitled to be there with Murray.

Q&A with Clive -Ireland's Autism Service Dog Extraordinaire view

When we travel abroad Murray’s Mom has made up an ID card in Spanish, French, and Flemish to show in the relevant countries. France is extremely welcoming towards services dogs, Belgium also, however, Spain is another matter altogether. This year, we persisted, though, and even got a Spanish hotel to accept me and allow me in the dining room every evening. This was a huge step for the hotel and staff, but I was so well-behaved that by the end of the week, they were totally converted to the idea of ‘working’ dogs staying in their hotels. We also appreciated the fact that they upgraded us to a larger suite when we arrived. We have also stayed in a lot of hotels around Ireland and our access laws in this country are regarded as some of the best in Europe.

Q&A with Clive -Ireland's Autism Service Dog Extraordinaire seaside

Assistance Dogs for Autism have only been in Ireland for the past six years, and we were the first European country to Assistance Dogs. One of the things we always appreciate is how friendly, and welcoming hotel/restaurant staff are to me.Indeed, several times we have been upgraded to a larger room or suite (during check-in when they see how big I am!); we don’t expect or need it but it is very nice to get upgraded!

Q&A with Clive -Ireland's Autism Service Dog Extraordinaire dublin

I have not travelled to the US before, so our holiday this July to South Carolina and New York will be a very exciting experience for us. Murray stayed in the Fairmont Copley Plaza in Boston last summer (because of Catie—their canine ambassador) as the family were worried about him missing me so much. This summer, however, we will all be together on holidays in Hilton Head—both Murray and I are very excited!

Q&A with Clive -Ireland's Autism Service Dog Extraordinaire castle

 

*Special thanks to Fiona, who acted as the perfect translator from Canine to English.

 


Benefits of Cruising For Travelers With Autism

 

At first, many parents to kids with autism tend to shy away from cruising; thinking that spending multiple days confined in a ‘swim box’ is just horrifying.
All they can imagine for their vacation days are endless stares and nasty comments from fellow passengers, dramatic meltdowns, and incessant whining from their family members.
As I see it, cruises are not only a great value for the budget conscience family but beneficial for travelers with autism as they provide the perfect learning platform in a relaxed and fun environment.

Benefits of Cruising for the Travelers with Autism ship

Exposure to an incredible variety of foods

Between the main dining room and the buffet, your kid with autism will be tempted to sample many dishes that he or she have never seen before. Since tastes change, you never know when you might return home with a kid who is absolutely in love with mushrooms and asparagus! In our case our son fell in love with escargot on his first cruise experience and still likes to order them every time he finds them offered on the menu.

Benefits of Cruising for the Travelers with Autism soup

Participation in group activities or games

At home, our son never waited for his turn and was always the sore loser in board games. So naturally I was reluctant to pay and have him participate in the ship’s bingo games.But he promised to be on his best behavior if I did take him, so I caved in. And I was surprised when he didn’t seem to mind waiting patiently and losing at Bingo or Trivial Pursuit to other passengers.

Benefits of Cruising for the Travelers with Autism hall

Collectors Paradise

Cruising is a golden opportunity to collect both ship and port memorabilia. Ship memorabilia includes anything with the vessel’s name or logo, including free daily newsletters. Port memorabilia can be anything from the corny t-shirts, pens or caps to maps, napkins, and public transportation tickets.

When we first started cruising with our kids, they were very young, so they collected all the free pamphlets and trinkets they could lay their hands on.

When they grew older, they learned to save their weekly allowance so they would have the money to buy more expensive souvenirs at the different ports we visited. In our son’s case, he has a designated corner in his room with everything he has amassed from years of travel and he likes to look at them to remind him of his various travels.

 

Benefits of Cruising for the Travelers with Autism dolls

Introduction to thrill sports

Do you get to parasail the Caribbean, zip line a tropical forest, rock climb or ice-skate on-board, pet dolphins, manatees, or sea lions every day? That’s what you’ll be doing for an entire week when you go on a cruise!

When we first started traveling, we were the epidemy of couch potatoes.Yet, for the week, we are on board a ship we all become adventurous and try new sports at least once.

Benefits of Cruising for the Travelers with Autism ropes

cruise ship is akin to living in a small village where everyone is in a good mood for a week, so it is a terrific opportunity for your child to practice their social skills. The more your kids cruise and are exposed to other passengers, the better they will learn how to interact with different people. We were surprised on one of our cruises when our son hit it off with an older gentleman who turns out was a television producer and chatted for over two hours about the future of children’s programming.

 

Benefits of Cruising for the Travelers with Autism formal night
Have you taken your child with Autism on a cruise?  What did you find was the most beneficial experience for them?

 

 


Visiting Madame Tussaud’s Wax Museum in Amsterdam

During our frequent visits to the different European and American cities, my son would often beg me to go and visit Madame Tussaud’s wax museum. Frankly, though I wholeheartedly support going to explore most museums, this genre seemed like the ultimate tourist trap to me and as such, I refused to give in.

Although I continuously explained to him how unreasonably expensive it was, how kitschy it looked, and what a total waste of our precious travel time it would be to go, I would still get the occasional childish whine of “but why not..?”

One day I finally cracked. We were in Amsterdam, on a rainy day and had already seen everything I had set out to see; like the famous Rijksmuseum, the Van Gogh and Modern museums along with Anna Frank’s home, and Rembrandt’s Studio.
We had extensively walked around the canals, visited the beautiful squares, and even wondered unknowingly through the Red Light Zone. Besides, I reasoned with myself–my kids had enough educational tourism, so let them have some fun.

Visiting Amsterdam's Madame Tussaud Wax Museum dalai lama

And that is how I ended up taking the boys to the Madame Tussaud Wax Museum for the afternoon alone, of course since my dear husband made it abundantly clear he was not wasting fifteen euros for the admission ticket

 

.Visiting Amsterdam's Madame Tussaud Wax Museum einstein

The Museum.

We walked in after I signed off thirty euros on my credit card slip(kids were 50% off) and entered a dark and crowded room that looked like it had been borrowed from a run-of-the-mill theme park. At this point, as my son was busy running from exhibit to exhibit, I was wondering, “why did I do this to myself?”
Visiting Amsterdam's Madame Tussaud Wax Museum bush
Luckily that dark Halloween-like room viewing lasted less than ten minutes, and we finally got to the real part of the museum-the wax figurines. And that was where my real surprise was about to be unveiled.

We leisurely went from exhibit to exhibit discussing all the famous people there.Right there, I later realized, was the best history lesson any kid, especially an autistic kid could get. Suddenly, the likes of Churchill, Lenin, Picasso, and Einstein were standing right there in front of us, almost ready to shake hands.

The boys commented on their height and speculated why Gandhi wore his famous austere sari while Elvis appeared in sequined suits. During those two hours in there, I managed to explain and cover more than a century’s worth of history in politics, art, music, and cinematography.

 All in all, it turned out to be a productive and highly entertaining afternoon for the three of us, while I learned to reconsider my biased opinion of tourist traps.

 

Autism Travel Tips.

  • The museum might be a bit crowded during peak hours, so it is recommended to call ahead and ask what time is best to arrive.
  • For kids scared of darkness and ghosts-skip that exhibit as it might be a bit frightening. 
  • Reiterate the rules to your kid as to what is or isn’t permitted including touching the exhibits.
  • Some of the exhibits may be PG13 so you might want to ask the staff that ones they are and decide whether they are or aren’t appropriate for your child..

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