MYRTLE BEACH, SC (WMBF) – Area families affected by autism are excited to see yet another option open up for them in Myrtle Beach, especially one that could reconnect children with the outdoors.
The Myrtle Beach State Park is currently working to become autism friendly, a move that is receiving praise from the founder of a local autism group.
"The state park just wants to engage as many people as possible, especially outdoors," said Becky Large, founder of the Champion Autism Network. "Our population is video game, screen junkies. So, you know, to have something outdoors and engaging and it kind of teaches them about this area, is great."
Starting with the rules of the park, Large said there is a way to make them easier to understand for children on the autism spectrum.
"Saying 'Don't throw that' isn't necessarily going to have the same impact as 'Hold onto what's in your hand.' Or don't climb versus keep your feet on the pier. (It's) just trying to make sure the rules and instructions are very clear for them to follow," she said.
Just as the Champion Autism Network has worked with first responders, business owners and those at Myrtle Beach International Airport, the state park rangers will be trained this October.
"Dealing with somebody with autism - high functioning or low functioning - with this communication disorder is counterintuitive to everything," Large said. "As a parent, as a first responder, it's counterintuitive. To be able to kind of loosen the grips on the training you've had and be more aware of what you're encountering is really important."
Large is also working the with South Carolina Interventionists, Towards A Worthy Cause and the Barnabas Foundation as they launch a new center and program for children with autism and special needs.
She is working with the program staff to also start hosting events at the park. The first autism-friendly event will be Saturday, Sept. 17, from 9 a.m. to 2 p.m. There will be fishing, crabbing, seining on the beach and a community beach sweep and cookout.
The hope is once the program is running smoothly, the Champion Autism Network will roll it out to the other 46 state parks.