MIAMI, March 29, 2018 /PRNewswire/ -- According to the CDC, 1 in 68 U.S. children has autism spectrum disorder (ASD), and 11 million children have a developmental disability. Unfortunately, the rate of ASD is on the rise each year; and occurs in all racial, ethnic, and socioeconomic groups.
Although research has shown that travel and activities away from home are therapeutic for children with ASD, few hotel and lodging options are tailored to fit their families' requirements.
"We saw an under-served market with a genuine need," says Alice Horn, the CEO of VillaKey, LLC. "Children on the autism spectrum are uncomfortable with unfamiliar environments, and many families avoid hotels, or may not go on vacation at all. The children require a familiar and safe environment, which can be best provided in a vacation home."
The VillaKey platform currently features a select assortment of over 100 autism-friendly homes in the Orlando area, with plans to expand to destinations throughout the U.S. over the coming year. The homes include full kitchens to accommodate cooking for special diets; the use of fragrance-free cleaning products; decor with soothing colors and alarms on exit doors. Service pets are welcome. Both staff and local property managers are certified in the requirements of autism travelers. Over time, VillaKey plans to add services and activities to suit the autism market.
Inspiration came from seeing positive online reviews: "My 4 year old is on the autism spectrum, so I had to find somewhere to stay that had a "home" look and feel to it. On our way from the airport, it was late and my son was having a difficult time. Once we entered the property, he felt at ease, and I was in "home-heaven." Thank you, thank you."
Research for the platform included a focus group at the Center for Autism Related Disorders (CARD) at the University of Miami. This led to development of educational tools, also featured on the website, to assist parents and children as they prepare. "Our goal was to eliminate some of the uncertainty that our families experience when they're planning a trip," added Ms. Horn.
In addition to families impacted by ASD, the VillaKey platform welcomes all types of families. A percentage of all bookings goes to the VillaKey Cares™ fund to help support travel expenses for families who struggle with autism and may not have the resources to afford a vacation on their own.
Mom and Child
Mom and Child with Autism
Together is Better
Autism family relaxing in Vacation Home
The Perfect Vacation
SOURCE VillaKey, LLC