Six Suggestions for Hotels Accommodating Autism

Six Suggestions for Hotels Accommodating Autism pin

With recent US studies showing that 1 in 68 children receive a diagnosis somewhere ‘on the spectrum,’ autism issues are on the rise. There needs to be more attention paid to these matters, especially in the hotel industry. Families who have children with special needs, such as autism, often encounter extra challenges in life. When it comes to travel and hotel stays, these challenges become even more evident. With dedicated training, attentiveness and a general increase in awareness, hotel staff could make the visits of their guests with autism easier and far more pleasant for all involved.

Some accommodations for families with autism are more successful than others, and some need improvement. In all the years our family has traveled around the world with our son with autism, we have learned what works for us and what doesn’t. Here are a few tips, ideas, and suggestions that the hotel industry should consider implementing.

Have a Knowledgeable Concierge

The concierge is often one of the first people hotel guests have contact with on arrival. They help make reservations and other arrangements to ensure an easy stay. For guests with autism, concierge staff could expand their role to include assistance with medical rentals and purchases of needed supplies from drugstores and local pharmacies.

Six Suggestions for Hotels Accommodating Autism trees

Furthermore, it would be helpful if the hotel staff compiled a list of both outdoor and indoor activities in the area suitable for children with special needs and autism. Families dealing with autism always want to know about free events or places that offer discounted rates for autism.

Create a Social Story

Social stories are an ingenious and modern way of educating and engaging children with autism. Most children seem to relate well to these little mini-books that describe situations in a patient and reassuring way. For those with autism, these stories are a form of role-playing that they can understand.


Hotels should create a social story unique to their properties. In the story, animated characters could walk their readers through the hotel public areas and room while explaining proper behavior in each location and situation. This method works well even for kids with autism who are non-verbal.

Update the Menus

Hotels that have restaurants on-site need to make sure that there are more gluten-free options on the menus. These restaurants should also have other choices that cater to those with food restrictions, such as nut-free and dairy-free. These options should extend to the room-service menu as well.

Also, offering longer breakfast buffet hours in some cases can be helpful. Families with autism often find the morning transition challenging as it is, so this would be an appreciated option.

Quiet Tables

Hotel restaurants should designate a table or two in a more secluded part of the dining area to provide a quieter space for patrons with autism. Restaurant staff should ensure that the table is nowhere near the entrance to the kitchen or bathrooms. These places are not quiet spots and might be challenging for visitors that are smell sensitive. If the restaurant has any background or live music, the designated quiet tables should be away from the stage, the loudspeakers or any other source of music.

Additional Training for Kids Club Staff

The kids clubs in most hotels do a fabulous job providing entertainment to many children of all ages. However, many personnel do not have the specific behavior training to handle children with autism. Hotels should train their kids club staff to become more autism aware. Companies also need to equip staff with the right tools to accommodate guests with autism.Six Suggestions for Hotels Accommodating Autism room

Moreover, the staff should be taught that when any kid with autism feels overwhelmed, they should have the option to take any arts and crafts activity and do it in their room or come at assigned times when the club is less busy so they can get more personalized attention.

Make Rooms More Autism-Friendly

It would behoove hotels to overhaul at least some of their rooms to accommodate guests with autism and allergies. To help patrons with allergies, hotels could stock hypoallergenic cleaning products, amenity kits with hypoallergenic cosmetics products, and forgo using air freshener.

Hotels could also assign specific quiet and secluded rooms to accommodate families with autism. These rooms should not be placed over or under the restaurant or dining areas. They should be away from laundry rooms, elevators, the Executive lounge, vending machines, the pool, ice machines, banquet halls and hospitality suites where conferences are held. It would make sense for these rooms to be on a higher floor to ensure less noise from traffic and the lobby. Also, these rooms should not be in proximity to any gym or roof where A/C machines are placed.

Six Suggestions for Hotels Accommodating Autism thing

Some children with autism try to escape when their parents are momentarily distracted. To mitigate this, hotels should offer stick-on motion detectors for doors and windows. These will alert parents if the child exits the room so they can respond accordingly. Within the room itself, providing dimming light switches would also be a wonderful accommodation for light-sensitive children with autism.

For properties wanting to go the extra mile, they can install better window insulation, such as dual pane. Hotels could also provide extra wall padding to minimize noise in the room. Minimizing noise will help everyone since some sounds that children with autism make can disturb others.

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Many families with autism have difficulties occupying their kids. Because of this, it would be helpful if hotels increased the number of kid’s TV channels, offered iPad rentals, and installed more power outlets in the rooms.

Finally, to increase bathroom safety, hotels should provide non-slip mats and install hand-held shower heads. This will allow parents to better help kids who are not able to bath independently.

In Summation

By making the stay of families who have children with autism easier and enjoyable, both hotels and guests benefit. Patrons will benefit by having an easy going, uneventful stay. Hotels will benefit by seeing more business from these patrons who keep them in mind for their next visit. The hotel industry should strongly consider most if not all listed changes to help every guest in the modern world.

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Q&A with Rose Niehaus Morris of the ‘Safety Sleeper Bed’



Q&A with Rose Niehaus Morris of the 'Safety Sleeper Bed' warehouse

photo credit Rose Morris

How you came up with the idea of the Safe Sleeper?.

We first thought of the concept during a visit to a friend’s house in Dallas (we live in Pa)  when we were experiencing sleeping issues with my youngest at the time, Abram. He had autism and didn’t sleep a lot, but getting him to sleep was the worst.
On top of that, he could climb out of anything!
We had previously tried to use a pack-n-play for Abram to sleep in, but he would continually rise out of it.
We did attempt to put an afghan over the top, and secure it with bungee cords, but that would only slow Abram down for a few minutes. Some of the moms I  spoke with had dealt with these issues by letting the child sleep in bed with them; we knew we needed a different solution, as, Abram would not lie down and sleep if he had the opportunity to get up and keep playing.

So, at that point, we sat with our friends and talked about what would ‘work’ for our needs. Later, we designed,  and our friend manufactured what we now call ‘Abram’s Bed’ or ‘ The Safety Sleeper.’

Q&A with Rose Niehaus Morris of the 'Safety Sleeper Bed' room

photo credit Rose Morris


 Is the bed considered as checked luggage by the airlines and charged as an extra bag?

When we fly, we check ‘The Safety Sleeper’ as luggage. We usually have to take it to the oversized luggage department similar to what guys do with their golf bags.

I did learn that if you are flying an airline that charges for bags, all you need to do is notify them this is medical equipment for a special needs child/person, and they will not charge for that bag.

If you come across someone who doesn’t understand or is unfamiliar with this and tries to charge you- ASK FOR A SUPERVISOR. I got our charges refunded plus a future charge credit, after being charged by someone less knowledgeable.

How easy is it for people to pack and unpack the ‘Safe Sleeper’ in a hotel room?

The Safety Sleeper is as easy to set up as most pack-n-plays. It is about twice the length of a pack ‘s play but fits comfortably in every hotel room I’ve ever stayed in. The frame breaks down into six sections: the base splits into four parts during the top into two halves.

All sections slide together and lock in place. The top connects to base with pull pins, so no tools are required. Then the canvas screen pouch zips onto the frame. Parents can assemble the entire system in a few minutes.

How has your invention enhanced your family travel?

For us, we were at a crossroads when we designed the bed. We realized that if something drastic didn’t happen, we would not be traveling for quite some time and that just wasn’t an option.

For us, it was a scary and daunting prospect, to be stuck at home and never travel again. We now use the bed on a weekly basis, like going to a friend’s house to watch a hockey game that may go late. We just set the bed up and put our son to bed. Typical families do this sort of thing all the time, but when you have an individual sleeping situation, it becomes a whole new level of stress.


Do you have any plans to offer a ‘Safe Sleeper’ rental option to hotels and cruise ships in the future?

Q&A with Rose Niehaus Morris of the 'Safety Sleeper Bed' fair

Photo credit Rose Morris

I would love to form a business relationship with a hotel chain or cruise ship. At this point, I do not have anything in the works, and this has proven harder to do than I anticipated. Most hotel chains- although large- are independently owned or operated. If any of your readers have a Hilton or Marriott connection, please introduce me.

Do you have plans to create other products? 

I didn’t plan on creating or marketing this. I wasn’t looking for a business to start, so no, I probably won’t be building anything else in the future.
However, if  I were so lucky as to be involved in something else, I would do it because giving back feels so rewarding!
I felt so blessed that I had a friend who could build a concept that we came up with, that I felt I was led to share this bed with everyone. I do honestly feel like this was a moment when God spoke to me, and this was an opportunity to do good for others.


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