A Mil­lion Senses de­signs hol­i­days for fam­i­lies with autis­tic chil­dren

Kathimerini English - - Focus - BY LINA GIANNAROU

A good busi­ness idea is one that fills a gap in the mar­ket. For years, the three part­ners be­hind A Mil­lion Senses, a brand­new 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, 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 24hour 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.” are

The startup’s pro­gram in­cludes sea ac­tiv­i­ties for chil­dren led by spe­cial­ists.

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