One of the market segments we feel is being left out in the Orlando vacation home market is that of families with Autism Spectrum Disorders. Over the next couple of weeks we are going to be doing interviews with popular bloggers who have children with autism. During these interviews we are going to find out how we can better equip our vacation homes near Disney World which will make traveling to Orlando easier for these families.
Today we interviewed Caryn Haluska, a popular mommy blogger and mother of 7 children. One of Caryn’s children is Logan, who has autism. If you would like to read some of Caryn’s blogs please visit her site at www.livingwithlogan.com.
To start off, I would like to thank Caryn for giving us a few minutes of her time, and l look forward to working with her in the future. Caryn was the best person we could have picked to do our first interview as she was well prepared for the interview, and gave us some amazing insight.
Trey Duling: Caryn I appreciate you taking the time out of your day to do this interview with us. As you well know we are looking to cater to families with autistic children, and we are looking for ways to set the vacation homes up which will help the parents and families in their travels to Orlando.
Caryn: I have actually been thinking about this since yesterday when you asked me to do the interview, and I even went on a few forums and other websites to ask other parents as well. As you well know we have 7 children so we do not travel all that often, but here are a few things you should know.
Children with autism can range from extremely functional to nonverbal and non-mobile. So when we are talking about catering to families with autism it is not a one size fits all scenarios.
One of the things regarding catering to families with autism is that if you do a good job they will tell all their friends and family members, and rave about their experiences. So it is a good market to go after and quite frankly one which most companies don’t pay any attention to.
Trey Duling: Wow that is great! Word of mouth marketing is the best type of marketing you can get. What things should we include in the vacation homes which are going to be marketed as autism friendly?
Caryn: Well there are a number of things:
1) A couple of heavy duvet covers or weighted blankets. The heavier the better and many pillows. Children with Sensory Processing Disorder often like to feel pressure when they are sleeping or resting.
2) Bumper pads on the beds, especially for the children that have seizures.
3) A yoga exercise ball. The children like to bounce and roll around on it.
4) Pool, door, and window alarms. Children are attracted to water, and many children with autism are escape artists.
5) Extra door locks placed high up on the door. Some children with ASD are very prone to “running” and the more locks the better.
6) It would be a good thing if the house has a DVD player and game systems with headphones.
7) Some families have an autism service dog, so you need to be aware of this.
8) I would also recommend that the house be cleaned with cleaners that are not chemically based and scent free, as some children do have severe allergies.
Trey: Is there anything we can do to help the parents prior to them coming to Orlando?
Caryn: Yes, the more pictures you have of the house that you can send the better. This way the parents can show the children and prepare them with social stories for where they are going to be staying on their vacation. The less surprises for the children the better off everyone will be.
Trey: I was thinking of providing them a list of companies who offer services which they might need while they are here in Orlando. Can you give me some of these services which a family might seek out?
Caryn: I think this is a great idea. A physical therapist, a speech pathologist, occupational therapist, and a wheel chair or stroller company. Most families will probably bring their own strollers but if you can recommend a good stroller company then they might be able to save some money, especially if they are flying into Orlando. A list of vets, which are nearby would be great just in case the service dog gets sick or hurt.
Trey: WOW! Caryn, I really appreciate all the good information you provided us. I am going to be meeting with our team today and share with them all this good information. I look forward to working with you in the future to spread the word about these houses.