Cruising with Autism, Inc. (also known as Autism Cruises®) is a 501(c)(3) nonprofit organization. The Board of Directors are all volunteers, active in their communities and dedicated to improving the lives of people with disabilities.
The mission of Autism Cruises® is to enrich the lives of children, teenagers and adults living with autism and similar disabilities by affording them the experience of a cruise or resort vacation to be taken with their family member(s)/guardian. Affording a vacation experience can be very difficult for families with an autistic family member because of all of the expenses that are required to care for them on a daily basis. Autism Cruises® provide funding to assist families in affording the vacation experience which is much needed for stress relief as well as family bonding.
Families raising a child or an adult with autism can experience feeling constantly overwhelmed; isolated from their family, friends, community, place of worship, etc.; mentally stressed out; financial hardships; physically exhausted; strained/broken relationships; guilt; depression, and so many other factors that can affect their household and lifestyle. Autism Cruises® takes the family out of their environment so that they can enjoy themselves, be in the company of other families and caregivers who understand their daily concerns, and where the entire family can experience a respite.
It is our goal to promote the travel experience and to help alleviate some of the day to day stress, by briefly taking the family out of their environment so that they can experience a bonding period. We strongly believe that everyone is entitled to an enjoyable travel experience. We provide informational sessions to families with a child/teen/adult family member on the autism spectrum on various topics including legal, recreational, healthcare, nutrition, education, advocacy, etc. We coach special needs families on finding solutions to many challenges that we encounter.
Founder and Executive Director – Meochia Clayton, I am the mother, single parenting, a young adult son with autism. My son was diagnosed with autism at the age of 4 in the late 1990’s when “autism” was starting to receive a lot of attention. Needless to say, our lives took a different path, all those future plans that were made had to be reassessed. As special needs families know, all of your current and future decisions are made based on the “diagnosis”, your lifestyle changes dramatically. I wanted to make a better, more fulfilling life for my son and others living with autism and other disabilities. I decided to return to school and put myself on a path as a Special Needs Advocate by earning a Master of Science Degree in Special Education Law. I always loved to travel and I realized that my son enjoyed traveling also. It hasn’t always been easy and when he was younger, he absolutely hated to fly. However, once we got to our destination, he would enjoy himself. Flying has gotten much better over the years (families, don’t give up). Overall, our travel experiences have been very enjoyable, memorable and rewarding.
When my son turned 18 years old, as a birthday gift, I took him on his first cruise and he had an absolute blast. This has been his best travel experience and I knew that this is the experience that I would like to share with so many other special needs families. We have and will continue to serve our families with the assistance of our generous donors, by selling impact travel, and various grant funding.
Autism Cruises® is a Certified Accessible Travel Advocate (Special Needs Group) and an Accredited Cruise Counsellor with the Cruise Lines International Association (CLIA). It is our mission to promote enjoyable and sustainable travel, recreational and social experiences for individuals living with disabilities. We are committed to making sure that our children never feel less.
Read our feature in The Huffington Post.