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PADI Worldwide and the International Board of Credentialing and Continuing Education Standards (IBCCES) have collaborated to bring the Certified Autism Center™ program to PADI Dive Centers and Resorts. The Certified Autism Center designation recognizes businesses trained in autism sensitivity and awareness, and go above and beyond to better serve customers with autism and other cognitive disorders. The alliance will make IBCCES training and certification available to PADI® Dive Centers and Resorts. After becoming a Certified Autism Center, dive centers and resorts receive ongoing marketing support from IBCCES, enabling them to reach more than 20 million families around the globe who have children with autism.
Research shows that engaging in stimulating experiences such as travel, animal interaction, outdoor play and water activities is therapeutic for children and individuals on the autism spectrum. With one in 59 children diagnosed with autism in the U.S., special-needs travel is the fastest growing family travel segment. According to a recent study of 1,000 parents with a child on the spectrum, 87 percent would be more inclined to visit a center where staff are trained and certified.
To earn the Certified Autism Center designation, your dive center or resort works with IBCCES to train at least 80 percent of your customer-facing staff so they have the requisite knowledge, skills, temperament and expertise to interact with families and children with special needs, specifically on the autism spectrum. Training covers the topics of sensory awareness, environment, communication, motor and social skills, program development and emotional awareness. Training must be taken every two years to maintain the certification.
Several PADI Dive Centers and Resorts have already completed the IBCCES certification including Sandals/Beaches Resorts in the Caribbean and PADI Five Star Dive Center First Coast Divers in Jacksonville, Florida, USA.
“This training opened my eyes to a whole new market and also helped me better understand many of our current customers,” said Dan Mechelke, General Manager of First Coast Divers, which became a Certified Autism Center in March 2019.
“We want every family to be able to enjoy the incredible Caribbean diving that Beaches Resorts offer daily,” said PADI Course Director Michael Clarke, Sandals Resorts International’s Group Watersports Director. “Two years ago when we introduced Beaches autism-friendly resorts program, we became the first resort company in the world to be distinguished by IBCCES. Now, Beaches Resorts is proudly taking our commitment to inclusivity for families with children on the spectrum to the next level as an Advanced Certified Autism Center. Through our longstanding PADI partnership and a mutual collaboration with IBCCES, we’re ensuring that all our guests have the opportunity to experience our world class dive destinations.”
In addition to increased staff confidence, you can benefit from this training by gaining access to a large under-served market, along with increased revenue and retail sales. If you’re interested in making your dive center or resort an ideal destination for customers with autism and other sensory disorders, visit https://ibcces.org/padi/.