Photo: Hotel Port aux Basques
Canada just got its first autism-friendly hotel, and we hope hoteliers up and down the country are taking note.
For the parents of kids with autism, travel might not always feel like a vacation: all the new sounds, sights, textures and experiences can be overwhelming to children who are extra-sensitive to their surroundings and happiest in their own routine.
That’s why Cathy Lomond, the owner of Hotel Port aux Basques, in the coastal town of Port aux Basques, on the southwestern tip of Newfoundland, has worked so hard with advocacy group Autism Involves Me (AIM) to make guests with autism feel at home in her 50-room property.
All the hotel’s staff members have undergone training, so they recognize and understand better how to respond to guests on the Autism spectrum, who may have communication challenges or special dietary needs and preferences.
The underused gym has been converted into a play lounge and sanctuary. There’s a plush playboat inside—ideal for kids with sensory sensitivities. There’s also a soothing seaside mural complete with local birds, butterflies and whales; a climbing wall; and a cocoon-like padded hammock, perfect for quiet time. Carpets dampen sound and keep the vibe extra chill.
And in a designated family-sized guest room, a great deal of thought has gone into safety. Kids with autism have a tendency to roam, so high door chains have been added to give parents peace of mind. Pictures and smaller objects are secured and coffee makers out of reach in drawers with child locks, so nothing can be thrown or moved, if a child becomes overwhelmed.
These simple changes put the R+R into travel for both kids with autism and their families. We love this thoughtful and inclusive approach and are already fantasizing about our next trip to Newfoundland for whale-watching, iceberg-spotting and some bonus cocoon-hammock time!