Dr. Karen Berkman, the Director of the USF Center for Autism and Related Disabilities
Tampa, Florida -- Autism is affects over one million Americans and the rate is believed to be growing by a least 10-percent a year. One Bay area hotel has started catering to families traveling with autistic children.
5-year-old Michael Inclan loves to watch movies on the computer. He was diagnosed with autism when he turned one. Autism interferes with the normal development of the brain and for kids with the disease, changing environments can sometimes be a challenge.
"Walking into a hotel lobby, depending on the hotel there could be a lot of noise if there's a lot of traffic or a lot of people checking in and checking out. The lighting, the high ceilings, the physical structure of any space can be quite overwhelming," said Carmen Inclan.
The Center for Autism and Related Disabilities at the University of South Florida help design a program for the Wyndham Tampa Westshore Hotel that helps families traveling with autistic children.
"We have been able to work with the Wyndham Hotel in this case to customize materials that they can provide to a family before they even come to the hotel," said Dr. Karen Berkman, the Director of the USF Center for Autism and Related Disabilities.
"It's just another audience -- a very important audience -- that's kind of misunderstood and we have a saying in our values that we want to set trends and let others follow," said Pam Avery, General Manger of the Wyndham Westshore hotel in Tampa.
The staff at the hotel went through sensitivity and awareness training they hope will provide a higher level of service to their guests affected by autism. The hotel distributes a tote to guests with kids affected by the disease.
The tote includes a package of information parents can use to help a child become familiar with the hotel.
Part of the Autism-Friendly designation includes ongoing training of the hotel's staff and the USF Center for Autism and Related Disabilities is creating a training tool for all new hires at the hotel.
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Melvin Beal, 10 News