Horry County aims to be more autism-friendly

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MYRTLE BEACH, S.C. (WBTW) – Myrtle Beach International Airport has a new sensory room. It’s to help accommodate families with autistic children. Close to a million people will fly into the airport this year and many families will have a child with special needs. Those who pushed for the quiet room said they want to make traveling to Horry County as easy as possible.

Airports are often loud and crowded. Becky Large’s son is autistic and says airports aren’t a pleasant place for children with autism.

“It’s really hard to travel with a child on the spectrum. Any child probably, but on the spectrum, setting expectations, waiting in line, waiting to take off, sitting still, being quiet.”

Large pushed for the quiet room at Myrtle Beach International. She wanted a place where families could decompress after a flight.

“Having somewhere where the child can move around and play and kind of climb around and snuggle in one of the cubbies, you know different sensory inputs is really a great opportunities for the families to calm down for a few minutes.”

Surfside Beach was named autism friendly earlier this year. Now, Horry County council vice chair Tyler Servant wants the movement to take over the county.

“Myrtle Beach area is a great destination for families and by offering these services it was our hope that Horry County would become a place where families that have children on the autism spectrum could come and visit and enjoy their vacation and their time with their families because that is what this area is all about.”

Right now, a few hotels and restaurants participate in the Champion Autism Network by accommodating those with special needs. Soon, that network will grow even larger.

“Also making Myrtle Beach State Park the first autism friendly state park with plans to roll that out statewide, Myrtle Beach is the beta park on that. We are working with Horry County and Georgetown County first responders so they know how to respond in a situation with someone with autism or special needs.”

So far more than fifty families have traveled to Myrtle Beach to enjoy the autism friendly environment. Several more plan to come. Large says being autism friendly is a win-win for everyone.

“Why not invite these families to come out and have a supported vacation and also provide economic opportunity for our businesses here.”

For a full list of autism-friendly places, visit http://championautismnetwork.com/.

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