The owner and executive chef at Johnny D’s Waffles and Bakery, Jamie Daskalis, feels a special connection to the autism community. Her 7-year-old son was diagnosed with autism shortly after his third birthday,
Inside the restaurant, customers see facts and statistics about autism in their menus, shirts and bracelets for sale to fundraise for SOS Healthcare, and ear muffs for those with sensory issues are also available.
“What everyone who is autistic wants, is to be accepted and loved,” Daskalis said. “Whether they have mild sensitivity to things or higher sensitivity, or regardless, you know whether they are non-verbal or verbal, they just want to be accepted just like people who aren’t autistic.”
Each day during April, the Johnny D’s Facebook page will feature a different person’s story with autism.
The Champion Autism Network in Surfside Beach works to educate people on how to better serve the autism community.
CAN works with hospitality staffs across the area on ways to help reduce stress for people who travel to the Grand Strand with a family member who has sensory sensitivities.
Having extra help for check-in and scheduled housekeeping times are a few ways the network suggests could help reduce the stress of a new environment.
“It’s hard enough to go to a restaurant, so think about going to another “home” for a week, you know somewhere totally different” Becky Large, Executive Director of the Champion Autism Network said. “Having people understand really helps eliminate the stress and anxiety for parents.”
Surfside Beach became one of the first autism-friendly travel destinations in 2016. At the end of 2018, Myrtle Beach and Horry County followed suit.
The Champion Autism Network hosts events year-round to raise awareness for the autism community. Tonight at Pelican Stadium, CAN and Bee Sharp will host “Bee Aware” during the Myrtle Beach Pelicans game, to celebrate World Autism Awareness Day.
First pitch is at 6:30 P.M.