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General information for all families

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Summer Day by Brian



While the majority of recreational programs across the state for individuals with autism are designed for children and youth, there are some that offer programs through adulthood. These include drama, music, equestrian services, rock climbing and karate. Some  ARCs provide recreational activities/clubs for adults or can provide information for starting up groups specifically for adults.  See the list of recreation providers for more information.


Traveling is strenuous today even for the most experienced travelers. For a child or adult with autism, leaving the comforts and routines of home can be difficult. Hotels are beginning to offer more autism-friendly accommodations. At the center of this change is the Center for Autism & Related Disorders at the University of South Florida, or CARD-USF, which is working with hotels in Tampa to establish standardized criteria for an "autism-friendly" hotel.

According to CARD, the following criteria make a hotel autism-friendly[1]:

  • Make all lighting adjustable with dimmers to accommodate travelers who have light sensitivities.
  • Provide temperature controls in rooms.
  • Ensure that all guest room doors have locks on the inside. Put alarms on all exit doors.
  • Many children on the autism spectrum are on restricted diets, whether due to food sensitivities (to taste, texture) or allergies. Provide mini fridges in guest rooms so parents can store their own food and drinks.
  • Bolt down some decorations and amenities, such as lamps, televisions, and telephones.
  • Outfit balconies and/or windows with locks and/or keypads for safety. Many children on the autism spectrum have difficulties with spatial recognition, which can reduce their fear while on a balcony or near a window.
  • Avoid using harsh chemicals or cleaning products and provide frill-free decor. The more basic, the better.
  • Provide extra blankets and pillows. The extra weight simulates the feeling of a "hug" for some on the spectrum, and thereby ensures a more secure and restful sleep.
  • Bathtubs in guest bathrooms are preferable to showers.

Autism-Friendly Hotels

Tradewinds Islands Resorts on St. Pete Beach, Florida 
Wyndham Tampa Westshore, Tampa, Florida
Wyndham Garden Austin Hotel, Austin, Texas

There is a website dedicated specifically for travelers with autism:

Airplane Travel

The journey itself, especially on airplanes, can be difficult for some individuals. Programs like AIR (Autism Inclusion Resources) Travel simulate travel experiences for children and youth with autism. See also: AIR - Helping Families Soar

Read a parent's personal story about taking her daughter on a simulated airline flight:
Annie's First Flight.

Sensory-Friendly Movies

AMC and the Autism Society offer sensory-friendly movies once a month in theaters around the country. These are current movies shown in an accepting, safe environment. During these movies, the lights are kept up, the sound is turned down, and there are no previews or advertisements prior to the feature film starting. Families are allowed to bring snacks in from home and anyone can talk, sing, or dance during the movie. Tickets are between $4-6 each.

For more information, see the Autism Society website


In October 2011 the Autism Theatre Development Fund (TDF) launched a new program, Autism Theatre Initiative, to make theatre accessible to individuals on the autism spectrum and their families. This program is part of the Theatre Development Fund's Accessibility Programs (TAP). The show, The Lion King, was performed for the first time at New York's Minskoff Theatre in a friendly, supportive environment for an audience of families and friends with children or adults diagnosed with an autism spectrum disorder or other sensitivity issues. Slight adjustments to the production included reducing any jarring sounds or strobe lights focused into the audience. The lobby had staffed quiet areas and an activity area for those who needed to step out during the performance. A downloadable social story (in Word format) with pictures of the theatre and production was available several months in advance of the performance to personalize the experience for each attendee. Tickets were offered through TDF at affordable prices, the highest of which was $79.00. For more information, contact the Autism Theatre Initiative.

Sports Games

Autism Inclusion Resources (AIR) also has a baseball program for individuals with autism to prepare for the baseball game setting. Individuals can practice being at a less crowded game before attending an actual baseball game. See how a practice run is facilitated in the following article: "Practice run allows families affected by autism to prepare for a Phillies' game."


Many learners with ASD have certain areas of interest, for instance, math, animals, machines, or a specific videotape/DVD. As part of the transition planning process, consider how individual interests might be used to develop contacts outside the classroom. Some interests have related organizations that meet socially--Yu Gi Oh!TM or Magic: the Gathering® clubs, science fiction clubs, computer/technology clubs, chess clubs, military history clubs, and so on. Introduce your young adult to these groups and encourage participation. Meeting new people based upon similar interests and expanding support systems is important as your young adult gets older.


Recreation Resources
Recreation Providers


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