COMMUNITY

A Million Senses designs holidays for families with autistic children

LINA GIANNAROU

TAGS: Tourism, Health

A good business idea is one that fills a gap in the market. For years, the three partners behind A Million Senses, a brand-new social startup that organizes package holiday deals for families with autistic children, had been keenly aware of one such gap. Having worked in the special education sector, all three had firsthand experience regarding the various difficulties that families wishing to enjoy a vacation together had to face.

“Every year we witnessed the agony across the faces of parents of children with low functioning autism [Editor’s note: The spectrum of autism covers a range of disorders from classic autism to Asperger’s syndrome] when the summer holidays were approaching as it meant treatment and educational facilities would soon close,” AMS founding partner, Angela Menni, told Kathimerini.

“For many of them, a family holiday was something beyond their dreams because of the practical difficulties involved, as well as the unexpressed thought that they were not ‘entitled’ to it. Most families do not go away, or if they do they tend to go to their family village or town, for instance, where some kind of support framework already exists.”

Essentially, A Million Senses makes it easier for families to enjoy a carefree and relaxing holiday. The startup, which was founded this year, is currently promoting two pilot deals for six nights at hotels in Corfu and Monemvasia.

“Our target is not to isolate the families but rather to help them integrate into the community, under conditions that will safeguard their entertainment and relaxation,” noted Menni. “What is necessary in this case is to raise awareness and inform hotel owners and members of staff, which is something we take on.”

Instructions, adds Menni, are straightforward but crucial.

“The hotel staff must make sure that the rooms reserved for the families are not located in noisy areas, for instance, or that when they ask for the bill they get it right away and don’t have to wait.”

Besides accommodation, the program includes three-hour activities twice a day for the children, led by a special team of occupational therapists, speech therapists, social workers and psychologists specializing in the autism spectrum. The support team, as it is known, is available to families on a 24-hour basis.

“Naturally, each program is customized depending on every family’s unique needs,” said Menni. “If a child does not enjoy spending time at the beach, for instance, his or her schedule will not include sea activities.”

Online