The Forest Preserve District’s Four Rivers Environmental Education Center in Channahon has earned the Certified Autism Center™ designation, which will create a more inclusive community space for visitors with autism.
The International Board of Credentialing and Continuing Education Standards (IBCCES) awarded the certification. The credentialing board's training and certification will help Four Rivers’ staff provide the best possible experience for guests who have autism and sensory sensitivities.
“Program and facility visitation for people with autism and their families can be very difficult,” said Chris Gutmann, facility supervisor for Four Rivers. “Families need to plan carefully. Having Four Rivers certified as an autism center helps take a little of that burden off those families by letting them know our staff is trained to understand and assist with their needs.”
The certification is part of a larger initiative to address how Four Rivers can better serve the community and increase inclusivity. Four Rivers has begun offering public programs for those with special needs and has others in the early stages of development.
“The center is also examining how to best apply our IBCCES training to existing, recurring programs as well as to facility improvements slated for this site,” Gutmann explained. “For example, we are working on developing an all-persons’ interpretive trail that accommodates visitors of all abilities, including different sensory abilities.”
According to IBCCES, autism is the fastest growing disorder in the world and 87 percent of families who have a child with autism spectrum disorders do not travel, due to the scarcity of autism-friendly options.
“We have a responsibility in public service to make sure everyone can enjoy and benefit from our outdoor spaces,” Gutmann said.
IBCCES training and certification
For more than 20 years, IBCCES has been the leader in cognitive disorder training and certification for healthcare, education and corporate professionals around the globe. IBCCES recognized that many families with children who have special needs have limited travel and recreation options. In response to this need, IBCCES created training and certification programs specifically for the recreation and hospitality sectors.
“We’re excited to work with the Forest Preserve District of Will County so its team can provide positive interactions and accommodations for all visitors and residents,” said Myron Pincomb, IBCCES board chairman. “Our goal is to make sure all families and individuals can have peace of mind when visiting new places and benefit from these experiences.”
More families and individuals are seeking out destinations and organizations that have completed a certification program through an accredited source. IBCCES is the only credentialing organization providing this type of certification.
The certification features evidence-based information as well as the perspectives of individuals with autism, alongside other tools and resources such as onsite reviews and customized recommendations. It also includes renewal requirements to ensure the program is a long-term commitment and has a lasting impact.
IBCCES also created AutismTravel.com, a free online resource for parents that lists certified destinations and connects families to other resources and each other. Each destination listed on the site has met Certified Autism Center™ (CAC) requirements.
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