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The founder of Champion Autism Network opens doors to families with autism
“I wake up every day trying to figure out how to do better and serve more people living with autism. We’ve come so far, and I’m proud of the infrastructure we’ve created and the growth of our reach. Our work continues to be inspired by the people we serve, and we are beyond grateful for the many people, businesses, and community organizations who have made our work possible.” – Becky Large
When Becky Large founded Champion Autism Network, her vision was simple yet powerful: a world where all people living with autism CAN live, work and play without judgment, guilt or worry. As a parent of a child on the spectrum, Becky was all too familiar with the general public’s lack of autism awareness and the challenges it creates for people and families living with autism. Even day-to-day living can be overwhelming as families anticipate meltdown triggers and awkward stares from those who don’t understand. Vacations and adventures can seem entirely out of reach. It can feel easier and safer to stay home. In isolation, their world can shrink, opportunities become limited, and their quality of life suffers.
Improving lives of people with autism and their families going out in the world
Too many families with autism miss out on traditional and fun experiences due to a lack of public understanding and the scarcity of simple, supportive accommodations. Determined to change that, Becky officially launched Champion Autism Network (CAN) in 2016 in her Surfside Beach, South Carolina community. Since then, they have remained dedicated to educating and empowering communities, businesses and organizations to create supportive and judgment-free experiences that enhance the quality of life for people living with autism.
Meaningful project outcomes
In addition to CAN’s autism awareness and education efforts, they host dozens of local sensory-friendly events and activities each year to invite people living with autism to come out and enjoy the same fun and enriching opportunities that are readily available to typical families.
Proud accomplishments in the disability travel field
Surfside Beach: With CAN’s help, Surfside Beach declared itself the first autism-friendly travel destination in January, 2016.
The CAN Card program: With businesses asking how they would know someone with autism was on premises, Becky created the CAN Card program, in 2016. The Card connects families with autism-friendly businesses and organizations worldwide. To create greater access and opportunities for families, the program provides autism readiness training to help businesses and destinations easily modify their spaces and experiences for a more welcoming and supportive environment for patrons with autism. There are currently 2800 CAN Card holders in 48 states and four countries, as well as over 120 participating businesses.
Airport Sensory-friendly room: Also in 2016, in conjunction with the Myrtle Beach International Airport the nation’s first sensory-friendly room at Myrtle Beach International Airport.
To expand opportunities for a growing number of families with autism, the CAN Card program is moving to its new brand: Autism Travel Club (ATC). ATC offers the same fantastic, fun, autism-friendly benefits, only bigger and better, through its new digital platform.
CAN will serve as a premier ambassador while ATC carries on the commitment to member families and educates and empowers even more businesses and organizations to provide welcoming and supportive experiences to families with autism. Participating businesses will receive increased visibility and a user-friendly platform to connect with ATC members.
You’re invited! As CAN celebrates its 7th anniversary, Becky and the CAN team invite families, businesses, and communities to be a part of the vision to create a world where all people living with autism CAN live, work, and play without judgment, guilt, or worry. Families can come play with CAN events and activities in the Myrtle Beach area. Or sign up for your ATC card to unlock special offers and connect with businesses and destinations that support your needs. Businesses are invited to become an ATC participant, creating peace of mind for families, contributing to inclusive communities and destinations while gaining a loyal population’s patronage. Communities are invited to collaborate to enhance the quality of life for people living with autism and create a more loving and inclusive community for all!