Join Becky Large, creator and Executive Director of Champion Autism Network (CAN), an organization committed to creating traditional family experiences modified for those with autism. Featured in the Associated Press, Travel & Leisure, NBC Nightly News, and a BBC Documentary, Becky and CAN are helping to create inclusive environments, providing joy and support in what started in Surfside Beach SC and now around the country. Learn how an idea to curate sensory-friendly events led to a movement that provides fun for families with autism, a robust PR autism awareness campaign strategy, the creation of a certification program for hotels, restaurants, and venues, and economic impact to the
communities and businesses involved--simply by leading with love.
autism, businesses, families, support, card, resorts, area, champion, becky, created, modules, training, restaurants, myrtle beach, local nonprofits, specific, tasha, people, key fobs, super
everybody welcome back to another episode of the autism and action podcast. Today we've got another very special guest. And we have another episode here with our new co host, Mr. Chris Hanson.
Hello, thank you so much for having me again. And I am super excited to be here and talk with you. And a little bit of background on me is that I have a company called life skills advocate out here in the Washington State area of Puget Sound to be specific. And I provide transition support for people on the spectrum as well as other developmental disabilities sort of helping bridge the gap between school and home, community at home and also work in home. So I'm super happy to be here.
And our special guest today is Miss Becky large. She's out of the Myrtle Beach, South Carolina area with the champion autism network. Welcome to the show. Becky, thank you so much for taking the time to be here today.
Thank you for inviting me, it's an honor to be here. Thank you. Well,
I know that we've already learned a lot about you from season one. But I think there's been a lot of updates since then. And we really just kind of want to help our new listeners and everybody that's chiming in now to the autism and action podcasts, learn about the champion autism that work and how they can get involved and participate.
So we have, you know, based out of Myrtle Beach, or you know, the Myrtle Beach area, Surfside beach actually is where we started, I got to give the props there. We, when we arrived here, after relocating from the Philadelphia area, it was it became really apparent that there was, you know, there's all kinds of supports and therapies for the person with autism, but there's really not anything committed to the families is, you know, we know that autism can be really isolating, you know, based on the sensory processing issues and tantrums and meltdowns almost always happen when you're outside the house. And then ensuing judgment that occurs, you know, but you know, your kid falls out, because I don't know, the tag in their shirt. And the music's too loud, or who knows. And, you know, the, the, you know, the public at large is, you know, looking at you like you're a horrible parent, or your child's and evil spawn, when really you're like a family and crisis. So we created this training program to train area, you know, or any restaurants, retail resorts, just different businesses, on the needs of supports of people with autism and their families. And one of the questions that came up was, how are we going to know that these are, this is a family with autism, so we created the can card program, and it's just become a member, and the supporting businesses and the ones that are participating and who are certified, offer a service or a discount to the families, a lot of times, it's like, if there's a way to get to the head line, 10% discount, blah, blah, blah. So we have this tremendous network of, you know, businesses that raise their hand, and they want to support our families, and, you know, families who aren't, you know, who now can go to places knowing that they're accepted, and you know, and then we also have, over the last few years created all kinds of sensory friendly events, movies, bowling visits to Ripley's Aquarium, Dave and Busters, wonderworks. So these are all corporate relationships that we can hope to leverage throughout, you know, wherever these other places are, and standard operating procedures for other movie theaters that we can share with them. So they can card program or they can card club, I guess that we'll call it has really been a wonderful opportunity for our families. And now what we're seeing is, you know, we've been doing this for quite some time, we started as a concept in 2013 became a 501, c three in 2016. So our, our kids are now older, right? And you know, they're in their teens now. And now they're in the transition. My own son is, you know, in transition, and the next step is leveraging the businesses that are already supporting and learned about autism, and moving into employing Pete you know, older people with autism and you know, developing life skills,
kind of what, that's really awesome. And it's really serving such a need, we need to bridge that gap, with awareness in the community and having the services and support to support these aging adults with autism going into employment.
You know, it's so easy, you know, especially with COVID, holy cow, I mean, what, you know, teen with autism doesn't want to stay in their room and, you know, stare at a screen all day, you know, they're kind of happy, kinda right. Like, it's not really good for anybody. And they're really struggling, you know, we talked a little bit prior, you know, my own son with, you know, executive level cognitive issues, you know, like really, you know, time management and organization and, you know, money and they aspire, they want to do things he wants to move 1000 miles away. Way to go to school, you know, where, you know, like, yo, you got to pass High School first, you know, you got to make it to work, you got to brush your teeth, you know, there's all these things that have to go in to being able to do that. And so like, that's just even just trying to get them to work. You know, the other issue that, of course, that we have is impairing somebody with autism and the training is it's a, it's an investment on the business person's part, it really is, you know, you have to have patience and time and understand, you know, small doses and repetitiveness. And like, it just, it takes a long, it takes a long time. One of the things that we want to do in our training program is to develop training, you know, online modules, so that at least the employers, like have an idea of what they're getting into before they get into it.
And then the other thing, of course, is that most require some sort of coach or shadow to be with them for a while. And if you don't if you're not part of a waiver, or you know, or reimbursement program, who's paying for that Middle Earth? Oh, so necessary. So like, that's what we're all trying to figure out right now. There's a lot, a lot of moving parts, but it's, it's awesome. And we're really excited. I have to say, though, totally stoked. Well, now, go ahead, Chris.
Oh, yeah. So I was wondering if you could sort of outline that maybe the specific levels of support that individuals with autism get when they get the can card? And then also, like, what, what does the full on training look like for some of these businesses and beyond sort of the intro module?
Well, so right now, when I was talking about, like, the business training for employers,
That's like, just at the very, I mean, like, really, this is just, we haven't even gotten that into production or anything yet. But we're, I'm hoping we've got a couple meetings that we're hoping to have kind of lined up with some, you have a high functioning autistic employment advocate from Massachusetts was on the governor's committee or something, he's coming down here in April, we're hoping to, like, get this Think Tank together. So that's one thing, the business training that we have, you know, for them to participate in the can card program. There's a couple different levels, tosses involved, and one of them, which is our, our, I guess, our most involved and intense it's called the champion certification level. And that's where we do walkthroughs and developed safety plans at resorts are, like, you know, venues that have a lot of different exhibits, like wonderworks, or something like that. And, you know, we identify areas of high alert areas, like safe areas, you know, what's the communication strategy, if there was to be some sort of episode or elopement of some sort. And then, you know, we walk the entire property we go through you make recommendations, or you know, and then we train the staff. And we can do that in several different ways. You know, live on site, trainings, live webinars, and then we also offer online training modules. Right now we have retail restaurant and resorts available on demand for new employee onboarding.
Okay. Very cool.
All right. And then with the can card, like what you were talking about for families, you know, like you had mentioned before, once they sign up on the website for the champion autism network, which is champion autism, network.com. Correct, that they actually get that card, and it's got a QR code on it. And that QR code shows them all of the participating businesses in the area that will give them or work with them in servicing, so the 10% discount going to the first head of the line, you know, all the different advantages of having that can occur,
every business is listed with, you know, the address, link out to their Facebook page. And so that's the other thing is like, the other part of this whole thing, you know, when we came to Myrtle Beach, and we started to do this, we were like, Well, you know, we should really, we live in this fabulous vacation destination, we should invite everybody to come play with us at the beach. Yes. So you know, we're creating economic impact for the businesses that are involved because we're a super loyal and growing population. So like, that's the other flip side of the coin is so you get a listing on the website, which is great for search engine optimization, and it with a link out to your website or your Facebook page, we give social media shout outs, you know, we provide you with, you know, whatever direction or support that you might need, you might want to have an event or who knows, you know, but it does it just doesn't stop there with the listing. There's all you know, we have to have a relationship. Nice
and are there and how far reaching then is the champion onto the network geographically and then maybe categorically to Are there new categories coming up, or can you talk through that A little bit
when you mean categories. Do you mean like, the different verticals that were like the modules?
Yeah, like types of businesses, maybe this that would be in the network?
Well, you know, we have service businesses, you know, like that maybe aren't necessarily restaurants or whatever, but that want to support our families, you know, dog groomers, and an accountant and carpet cleaners and a organizing lady who's the best. She's my coach, she's awesome. If you need an organizing coach, Brenda tringali, from at your fingertips, she works virtually she's a rock star. But anyway, so and then the online modules, you know, we've got, there's, there's just no end, you know, we've been creating and providing training, since 2015, going out to different businesses. So there's a plethora of PowerPoints that we just have to do. The next one that I would really like to do, though, is the general autism awareness, and maybe not geared specific to anything, because then anybody, you know, churches, you know, the county or counties interested in doing it. So, as far as families go, right now, we're serving close to 1800 families. 700 are local here to orange, Georgetown County, we track them that way. Because we apply for grants here, were considered a travel initiative. So we can go for accommodations tax, grant funding, and anybody outside of 100 mile radius is considered a tourist. So you're either in or you're out of that circle. And outside of that circle, you know, though, we've got 11 or 1200 families in, I think it's 45 should know this, but I'm sorry, 44 states and four countries, so and that number is growing, because we have this partnership now with blueberry resorts. And they have 49 around the country and one in Aruba, and we're going to have all of them certified champions, by me, right? Yes. Yes, we're really driving. Brian for sure. Yes, um, you know, our, our hope is that it will explode. And we will really have more and we're up leveling the candidate card, it's going to be a plastic card, and we've got little key fobs. And they went out in the next couple of weeks. So that's going to be coming. And so we're really thrilled about that. The next step with that is that our training programs that we offer the online modules, we want to partner with local nonprofits in wherever in those markets, because you know, our, you know, our families, your families, Kristen, and Tasha, they have relationships with businesses, they have relationship with restaurants, those restaurants are already doing it without knowing they're doing it. Right. Right. So like, why not, you know, give them the opportunity to serve more people. And a percentage of the sale 20% of the sale goes back to that nonprofit, giving them recurring revenue also. So we're trying to create this, you know, source of recurring revenue and support for our local nonprofits, or businesses that support them. And then of course, the families get a discount sounds like it's such a, you know, it's all about having it be a win win win. So we're really excited about it. Yeah,
you guys have built such an intricate model of networking, and really having that loyal population base with all the autism families to help these businesses generate revenue and come because it's very true. I know, for me as a parent, and also with research, you know, in autism, the number one thing that families want to do is have the ability to go out to eat and enjoy their quality family time together, because that's such a rare event. And so this is very needed. This is definitely going to bridge the gap in a lot of different areas in the autism world. And I absolutely cannot wait to see where this goes, Becky,
I'm so glad you're on the ride with me.
Well, before we close, is there anything else that you would like to share? And then we with with everyone listening today?
Uh, you know, just check out champion autism network.com. There's a link on there to request the canned card. I might hold off a little bit though, just because I want to send you the special one. I consider the one right now. It's just like a business card. It'll work it's fine. But and follow Tasha and follow Chris because they are amazing. And if there's anything that we can do to help you please do not hesitate to ask because that's why we're here. God bless rock on come play with us. Yes, you can.
Yes, you can. Thank you again, Becky, for taking the time to be here today.
Happy to do it.
Now, we would love to hear from you.
Do you have questions? Do you have ideas? Do you have an opinion? Do you think we missed something?
Let's have a discussion in the comments below or head over to the Autism in Action Facebook group. We would love to hear from you!