Beaches Resorts reports that it has attained the Advanced Certified Autism Center (ACAC) designation by the International Board of Credentialing and Continuing Education Standards (IBCCES). This new certification training, to be completed in May, spans all three Beaches Resorts -- Beaches Negril Beach Resort & Spa and Beaches Ocho Rios Spa, Golf & Waterpark Resort in Jamaica, as well as Beaches Turks & Caicos Resort Villages & Spa in Turks & Caicos -- with a core focus on the company’s kids camp, entertainment and watersports operations, as well as staff from other areas of the resort.
With one in 59 children diagnosed with autism in the U.S., special needs travel is the fastest growing family travel segment, the company said. Beaches Resorts reports that they will further expand this important training to their resort’s water sports program, with PADI certified dive professionals and other team members earning a special ACAC designation for each aqua center at Beaches properties, allowing children on the spectrum to safely experience the waters of the Caribbean.
ACAC designation is the next level of certification once an organization has achieved the CAC certification. It underscores that the organization has gone above and beyond to train its staff and provide substantial modifications for visitors with autism or similar sensory needs, Beaches said. The designations are granted by the IBCCES.
The ACAC certification process, which will come across different aspects of the resorts, both pre-travel and on property, entails a variety of important aspects, including:
- An in-depth training of 40 credit hours on autism sensitivity and awareness, in the areas of communication, motor skills, social skills, environment awareness, emotional awareness, bullying, early childhood identification, transition to adulthood and more.
- Activities and accommodations that must be available for guests on the spectrum.
- An annual onsite audit and review.
- Substantial changes to protocols and physical space to accommodate various needs.
Special services include the option of a "One-on-One Beaches Buddy," personalized, private childcare with a buddy who is certified by IBCCES and that can be pre-booked (for a nominal fee), as well as:
- A personalized pre-travel questionnaire to identify requests and preferences with a special services team to assist in the vacation planning process.
- A Culinary Concierge program to support specific dietary restrictions and special requests.
- Modified check-in options for private, in-room check-in and the availability of sensory toys for children during check-in.
- Identification of quiet spaces during noisier times of the day and evening.
- Modified design and decoration in kids camps and entertainment areas to create a more sensory-friendly environment.
Since achieving the CAC certification in April 2017, Beaches Resorts has also extended training to its travel agent partners, as well as internal sales and marketing teams, through IBCCES’ Certified Travel Agent Professional (CATP) program in an effort to better communicate with and assist families within this market.
Beaches Resorts’ watersports teams have also completed the ACAC training and certification, and earn the designation in conjunction with a collaboration between the Professional Association of Dive Instructors (PADI) and IBCCES. The certification makes appropriate programming from autism-certified staff available for families looking to enjoy daily PADI-certified diving. According to a recent study of 1,000 parents with a child on the spectrum, 87 percent would be more inclined to visit centers where staff are trained and certified in autism awareness. Many individuals on the autism spectrum are drawn to water, Beaches said, and the Autism Spectrum Disorder Foundation (ASDF) highlights that swimming can help children on the spectrum improve speech, coordination and balance, social skills, self-esteem, cognitive processing, communication skills and oral motor skills.
Additionally, Beaches Resorts recently introduced Julia, a Sesame Street character on the autism spectrum, who brought a new activity to the company's resorts: Amazing Art with Julia. During this activity, children are greeted by Julia, a four-year-old girl on the autism spectrum, who loves to paint. Julia highlights how people can express themselves through art, and children can explore, experiment and create in an open-ended art activity. As part of brand-wide efforts to increase awareness of autism, all Beaches Resorts staff underwent sensitivity training with "Sesame Street and Autism."
For more information about Beaches Resorts’ autism-friendly resorts in the Caribbean, please visit https://www.beaches.com/all-inclusive/autism-friendly/.