Parents with children on the autism spectrum often find choosing vacation locales and attractions to visit a challenge due to sensory needs, dietary restrictions and safety concerns. The Georgia Aquarium is the latest destination – and the first aquarium – to become a Certified Autism Center. The designation, granted by the International Board of Credentialing and Continuing Education Standards, means that visitors and families with children who have autism and other sensory disorders can enjoy the best possible experience that caters to their needs.

For almost 20 years, the board has been the industry leader in autism training for licensed healthcare professionals and educators around the globe. The board recognized that many families with children who have special needs have limited travel options. In response to this need, the board created training and certification programs specifically for the hospitality and travel industry. While many destinations tout “autism-friendly” options, this phrase is a generic term that does not necessarily indicate a true understanding of these families’ requirements. More parents are seeking out destinations that have completed research-based training and professional review as they review search for options.

“Georgia Aquarium is dedicated to providing our guests with an exceptional experience that allows them to connect with the wonders of the aquatic world. We are thrilled to be leading the zoo and aquarium industry through our commitment to making our facility friendly for families with children on the spectrum. We look forward to applying this training and working to provide the best possible experience for all of our guests with the ultimate goal of inspiring awareness and preservation of our ocean and aquatic animals worldwide,” said Anthony Rivera, vice president of guest experience and hospitality.

While research shows that travel is one of the most intellectually stimulating events for individuals on the autism spectrum, there are still few trained and certified travel options for parents looking for destinations able to accommodate their needs.

“Our goal is to partner with the leading travel destinations in the world to create safe, sensory-compatible travel options for parents and individuals on the spectrum. Our Certified Autism Center designation is awarded to premier organizations around the globe who have completed rigorous training and meet the highest industry standards,” said Myron Pincomb, International Board of Credentialing and Continuing Education Standards board chairman.

The board also created AutismTravel.com, a free online resource for parents that lists certified destinations and connects families to other resources and each other. Each destination listed on the site has met Certified Autism Center requirements.