With April being Autism Awareness Month in the USA, PADI and the International Board of Credentialing and Continuing Education Standards (IBCCES) recently announced a collaboration 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 which 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. Those that earn the distinction will receive ongoing marketing support from IBCCES, enabling them to reach more than 20 million families around the globe who have children with autism.

Kristin Valette-Wirth, chief marketing officer of PADI Worldwide, said:

“Diving has frequently proven to be a transformative and healing experience, for individuals with physical or emotional challenges and their families. We are honored to work together with dive centers and IBCCES to make it easier for individuals and families with special needs to find healing, share adventures and strengthen connections through diving.”

Research has shown 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 USA, 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 dive center where staff are trained and certified in autism awareness.

Myron Pincomb, IBCCES board chairman, said:

“Water is a major attraction for most individuals with autism and we have had multiple requests from families who would like to experience diving. PADI is the industry leader in the diving world and the fact that they understand the needs of this growing market and stepped up to help connect them with dive centers is huge.”

PADI Dive Centers and Resorts who seek to earn the Certified Autism Center designation will work with IBCCES to train at least 80 percent of their customer-facing team members so they have the requisite knowledge, skills, temperament and expertise to interact with all families and children with special needs, specifically on the autism spectrum. Training takes place in the areas of sensory awareness, environment, communication, motor and social skills, program development and emotional awareness. The training must be taken every two years to maintain the certification.

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