Surfside Beach becomes the first autism-friendly travel destination

Published: Jan. 13, 2016 at 1:07 AM EST|Updated: Jan. 13, 2016 at 1:14 AM EST
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SURFSIDE BEACH, SC (WMBF) – The Surfside Beach Town Council signed the first ever proclamation to make Surfside Beach the first autism-friendly travel destination.

The founder of the Champion Autism Network, or CAN, was present when the council signed the proclamation.

"The town council of Surfside will be proclaiming that Surfside Beach is an autism-friendly travel destination and as far as I know, no other town or city has made that declaration," Large explained.

For Large, she compared this move to that of having a baby, or getting married. For years she's been working to raise autism awareness through sensory friendly movies, and other events.

One of Large's main goals is to create a judgment free zone for families with children on the autism spectrum.

"We're trying to create a judgment free zone, and not just for a few hours but for a couple of days," she said.

The Mayor of Surfside Beach, Doug Samples, says he couldn't imagine a better fit.

"Being the family beach, being low profile, less densely populated, it sounded like a perfect match," Samples explained.

"Surfside Beach's motto is the family beach and they want families to come here and it's quiet and it's small, and we're ready to serve and it's the perfect place to kick off this initiative," Large said.

Becky Large is the network's founder and says more and more families call her each week, after receiving a diagnosis from MUSC.

These calls have further inspired her to expand awareness to an entire community.

"I'm approaching it kind of like a vacationer… making sure a property management company understands the needs, and they have family members that are on the spectrum and they understand the selection process for a proper house," Large explained.

A relaxing vacation is a challenge Large fully understands because her own son has autism but she believes those challenging times could be long over.

"It's really fun to go somewhere, where everybody gets it and understands. And you could actually swap stories with other families and talk about what's working for you and if they're from different states, we can cross populate and learn from each other…and help to grow awareness and who knows …create better services and supports," Large added.

"We've got so much to do here, that you can't really come up with an objection..  you have to leave the house and come here," Large said.

For more information, head to the Champion Autism Network website. There you will be able to donate to the initiative, and view a list of upcoming events and posts.

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