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VillaKey Launches Autism Friendly Vacation Rentals

Retro tiredNote: Vacations can be rarer than a Santa sighting for most of us. When we finally gather the money and courage to go away, the result can be more stress than we have at home, where we've been able to "autism proof" our lives for the most part. When I took my girls to DisneyWorld many years ago, we lost Mia on a 2200 acre resort as she slipped out of attached hotel room door while I unpacked. An autsim GRANMOM found her pushing the buttons and counting the floors in the glass elevators. Below is an article about a Miami-based company that offers the equivalent of "AutismBnB." What a fantastic idea. Homes that are already autism-friendly for a vacation. Our dear friend Wendy Fournier, President 0f the National Autism Association is quoted.

From the Orlando Sentinel:

By Gabriel Russon

Vacation rental company caters to kids with autism

Little Julie and Jason Lanza were delighted to show off their souvenirs collected from a day at the theme park.

But the truth is, vacations are sometimes difficult for their mother, Lissette Lanza.

Jason — a sweet-faced boy of 7 with floppy bowl-cut hair and an affinity for cars — has autism.

Going somewhere far from home takes him away from the comfort of his routine. He likes a plan, knowing what’s happening next. No surprises.

“Sometimes he handles it better than others,” said Lanza, a special-education teacher. “Sometimes he has a meltdown.”

But on this trip to Central Florida, Lanza expressed a sense of relief. She stayed at a vacation rental that caters to families with autism and other disabilities.

“You don’t find a lot of places that completely understand what you do when you have a child with autism,” Lanza said. “This has been a welcomed gift since you don’t have to explain anything.”

Earlier this year, Miami-based VillaKey launched an online platform that showcases homes that are more comfortable to people with autism. Many of the homes feature intentionally soothing neutral colors and allow service dogs. (myvillakey.com/autism-friendly).

“We really offer the peace of mind,” said Alice Horn, president of VillaKey, which advertises about 200 homes in Orlando.

Horn grew up with a father who had Asperger’s syndrome, a mild form of autism, and remembers how hard it was for the family to stay in hotels because noise bothered him.

Lanza appreciated that everything was washed with fragrance-free products, which wouldn’t bother Jason’s severe allergies. There was also an alarm on every door so if she looked away for a second, Jason couldn’t get distracted and sneak out. A checklist from VillaKey helped Lanza prepare her son for a day at the amusement park.

More businesses are striving to be inclusive to families dealing with autism — which affects one in every 59 people, said Wendy Fournier, president of the National Autism Association.  Read more here.

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