Autistic Travel – Huntsville, Alabama

Nov 14, 2021 | Destinations, Disabilities, Travel

 

There is a new initiative in the state of Alabama created by the Council on Developmental Disabilities and the City of Huntsville to create an inclusive training with hotels throughout the state for autistic persons and those with cognitive disabilities, called Tourism ALL-a-Bama

This program is intended to serve individuals and traveling families who may themselves be or have a loved one with diagnosed sensory sensitivities or who are on the autism spectrum. You must be a resident of the State of Alabama and will be required to show proof of diagnosis to receive a free practice stay. Practice stays are for one-night room and tax only. 

 

Our Stay

We applied through the Tourism ALL a Bama’s practice stay and were approved to visit Huntsville, Alabama.  We were excited about a quick overnight stay. We booked with the Doubletree South, and this was our experience.

Checking in to the DoubleTree Suites Huntsville South was a breeze, and this program, let the hotel staff know before our stay that my son has Autism. We appreciate Bri referring to him as a special guest and treating him with respect. Because of her humanity and patience, our entire family enjoyed our stay. C felt comfortable.

Support Provided

Through the initiative, they supported his needs by allowing us a room on end with little noise and few guests around us. Additionally, they showered him with a weighted blanket, a pair of headphones, sunglasses, and a pop-it—a wonderful welcome for a sensory-seeking autistic boy.

Overall the hotel was top-notch in dealing with Christian and his disability. Each time we walked by the front desk, Bri called him by name and checked in with him. He told me later that he “felt very special and welcomed.” Thank you, Tourism ALL-a-Bama, DoubleTree Suites, and Bri.

In the past,  I just knew someone would complain or react to him, and that would impact our visit. I felt comfortable with him there because they were aware and could handle complaints differently. Autism and can affect his volume. He also could be affected by other people’s volume.

Not to seem like it was all 🌹 there were still dips, twists, and turns. Christian was loud, he woke up early, and it was a tough weekend. His anxiety got the best of him many times, and we almost canceled. In the end, it was the perfect weekend for him to take this trip because we would have hard days, even while traveling.

 

Why Does This Matter

We are happy that we took the trip because it opens the door to more.  We are excited about this endeavor to bring inclusion to an underserved population in Alabama.

Autism spectrum disorder (ASD) is a disability that can cause significant social, communication, and behavioral challenges. The rate of diagnosis is currently 1 in 54; these people grow, they learn, and they matter. This initiative supports families that previously have not traveled because of how Autism can be perceived. The accommodations and acknowledgment of Autistic people will impact this generation with respect and humanity.

It is an integral part of the conversation, inclusion in travel. We have ADA laws, and they were landmark considerations of their time; in 2021 and beyond, there should be measures to help this population of people as they grow up to be readily accepted, included, and encouraged to live a happy life. Neurodiversity matters.

 

What Else Did We Do?

We planned several things, but they were mostly sidetracked. Sometimes Autism, ADHD, and Anxiety do not allow for plans to succeed if I am honest. We plan with the best intentions and stay pretty flexible. Here are the activities that we did have fun attending.

Galaxy of Lights

We were able to find a fun activity Friday night to attend Galaxy of Lights at Huntsville Botanical Gardens. This exhibit voted in 2020 as the #2 Best Botanical Garden Holiday Lights in the USA Today 10 Best Readers’ Choice Awards did not disappoint. The display lasts through January 1. Check out tickets and plan to attend.

 

 

 

 

Tickets are available with nights that are set aside for walking and nights dedicated to car traffic. Therefore, allowing for as much inclusion as possible, I love it.

A beautiful display timed beautifully to music had unique collections, interactive features, and children’s art on display. This show has been a community event for 25 years, and it is easy to see why. We loved this beautiful kick-off to the Christmas season.

Harmony Safari Park

On Saturday morning, we checked out of the hotel and loaded up for a Safari.

You heard that right; Harmony Safari Park has a drive-thru park where you can feed and see a wide range of animals. Located a short drive from Huntsville. Unique guests peer into your car, believing that you are their new best friend for feeding time. We saw everything from alligators, giraffes, and zebras to deer, emu, and bull. It is worth a visit if you have never visited a safari park before. We enjoyed many laughs, and it was a fun way to spend a few hours without too many people.

A note – During COVID, they no longer rent cars, and the reptile building is no longer open to visitors.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Things that we planned and did not get to:

Wahlburgers

Delicious food, allergy aware but too crowded and loud on a Friday night.

Lowe Mills Art and Entertainment

We have heard excellent things about the artists and culinary possibilities here. We will be returning to visit the largest privately owned arts facility in the southern United States.

Space and Rocket Center 

Huntsville is where rockets were developed; an advancement rocketed the US to the moon. Many activities abound to take your exploration to the next level while exploring the center that displays collections of satellites, design models, and houses Space Camp.

Each thing listed here is known for being sensory-friendly, so that is why these were rounding out our list. We hope to put these in rotation the next time we head to the “Rocket City.”

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