“A million senses is a social start up, created in 2016, to design autism friendly holidays in Greece for people within the autism spectrum and their families.”
There are a million different stories that led to the A million senses project. Being in the autism community as professionals for 20 years, we experienced countless moments that made us search for a mission to change the lives of people with autism and their families. We are Aggela Menni, Vivi Sidirofagi and Kostas Boulazeris, from Chios Island, Greece and we are working with children and adults with Autism Spectrum Disorder (ASD) every day, to help them navigate through their unique challenges.
Being in the autism spectrum basically means living in the same world as everyone, but perceiving it differently. People with autism are highly stimulated by things that should be natural to accept, like sounds of the environment or a touch, so if one looks closely, the world might not seem so ready to welcome them. But this isn't right, especially considering that 1% of the population is in the spectrum. In the autism spectrum, every day tasks, like brushing teeth, going shopping or getting dressed, are small strict rituals that have to be perfect to provide a steady and safe environment for the child. Adding to the routine permanent therapies and treatments, daily in some cases, one might realize that the reality of those families is even harder to imagine.
All those years we face this reality everyday and the one thing that was common in all families is the lack of time. Carefree time of holidays and rest for the whole family together is the most unimaginable thing for the majority of them. Something that we take for granted, for them is a luxury they feel they don't deserve. We heard this so many times, that it became a trigger for us, to create holidays in Greece, our home country, adapted to the people with autism and their families. Greece has everything to offer all year long! Multiple hotels, exquisite cuisine, outdoor activities wonderful beaches and it is a dream place to be for people all around the world. All that, combined with our autism expertise and our inspiration for a holiday service specially designed for people with autism, created “A million senses – Unique holidays for unique people”.
A million senses is building a new travel niche in the tourism industry and this is not a matter to take lightly. The first step was to add to the team the basic partners from the two fields, autism and tourism. We have travel experts who arrange for us any touristic service from accommodation to transportation, promising a high quality traveling experience. At the same time we support our programs with a number of professional caregivers with autism expertise, offering job opportunities in the field of therapy, especially for the summer period.
A million senses is all about the family holiday experience. We pick locations with easy access, we authenticate hotels and service providers as autism friendly, both in facilities and personnel training, and we create daily, basic and premium, activities for the member with autism so that the parents can enjoy quality free time feeling comfortable and safe about their child. Most importantly we are on call 24 hours for emergencies and ready to offer any additional support during their holidays. Families can travel alone with a personalized program or with other families in small groups. This is more than just sending the child away for camp. This is about traveling and meeting new destinations as a family in a comfortable environment with people sensitized and willing to provide services adapted to its special needs.
This reveals our higher mission through A million senses. To be able to create an autism friendly map, not only in accommodation but in services as well. People find autism socially awkward because they don' t know how to respond to an unusual behavior or situation. We believe that our role in the market is not just to offer a travel service for those people, but to educate the society to accept diversity, avoid judgment and welcome autism as another characteristic from the many that makes us all unique. A million senses has already implemented pilot programs in three destinations. Now there are more than 6 autism-friendly hotels and a list of 30 ready to be evaluated. Soon Greece is going to be known as an autism friendly destination and we are enjoying the whole process towards achieving it.
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The A million senses team
Menni Aggela,, professional in the mental health sector, specialized in Autism Spectrum Disorders, is the communication specialist of A Million senses.
Sidirofagi Vivi, graduate of Physical education and Sports science with a master in ASD, is the creator of the programs.
Boulazeris Kostas, graduate of Financial and Management Engineering, with a master in Economics is the financial manager.
Η A million senses στην εκπομπή της ΕΡΤ2 ΕΠΙΧΕΙρήματα, με τον Χρήστο Παγώνη.
Η Αγγέλα Μεννή, ιδρυτικό μέλος και υπεύθυνη επικοινωνίας της A million senses μίλησε για το αναφαίρετο δικαίωμα των διακοπών, της χαλάρωσης και ξεκούρασης, γονέων και ατόμων με αυτισμό και το μοναδικό θεματικό προΙόν Τουρισμού που αναδεικνύει την Ελλάδα διεθνώς ως έναν autism friendly προορισμό διακοπών.
30 Best Autism-Friendly Vacation Ideas
A review of our first year of autism friendly experiences in Greece
Grateful for our experiences and eager to keep on working, we entered this new year with great memories from the past and new plans for the future. A million senses will make the autism friendly holiday experiences in Greece even more personalized and richer for the families worldwide who will trust us for the season of 2018. We wish you all a happy new year!
We opened 6 new autism friendly destinations. This is not a simple to do list. It is a long process of research, coaching and raising awareness among the tourism community. This is what we love to do!
We went live on the Greek National Network presenting our project. We are grateful that the media have embraced our vision for autism adapted holiday services in Greece. We spread the word any chance we get.
We participated at the 6th Hellenic Autism Convention. It was a wonderful opportunity to connect with our friends and colleagues of the Greek community and present the new holiday services for families with a member with autism.
Η A million senses για δεύτερη φορά στην ΕΡΤ, στην εκπομπή 10 στην Ενημέρωση, με τους Νίκο Αγγελίδη και Χρήστο Παγώνη.
Η Αγγέλα Μεννή, υπεύθυνη επικοινωνίας της A million senses μίλησε για τα προγράμματα διακοπών φιλικά προς τα άτομα με αυτισμό που διοργανώνει στην Ελλάδα αλλά και το γενικότερο κλίμα στην υποστήριξη αυτών των οικογένειών από την πολιτεία.
Απολαύστε το απόσπασμα από την εκπομπή!
In A million senses we understand how vital it is first, for families to spend holidays together and second, for parents to feel carefree and relaxed.
6 hours of fun activities is our secret and this is why.
Children with ASD
Families, make your holidays even easier by choosing one of our programs. The ideal period is August, the official holiday month!
Check out our 2 awesome programs for for August 2017
Summer holidays in Aegio
Discover Crete with A million senses
It is widely known that Crete is more than an island! And a place like this with countless options makes it even harder to plan your holidays!
We started with Ierapetra and Hersonissos to create first autism friendly holiday programs in Crete! With A million senses you do not have to worry about discovering Crete. We took care of all the basic and premium autism adapted activities and for 6 hours a day.... the sky is the limit!
Parents, enjoy your carefree time, dig into the life of Crete and share your holidays with your family as you wish!
Well... its one of the top places to visit in Greece and the first island A million senses selected for autism friendly holiday programs!
Corfu has literally everything to offer for a summer holiday!!! A blend of Greek and Italian culture has shaped the town, the tastes, the music, the life and spirit of the island. You definitely won't miss diversity in Corfu and it's a wonder how this guy only picked 5 things to give you a taste.
The 1 extra from A million senses is our expertise in supporting your family with autism adapted activities for your children and a lot of carefree time for you in your holidays in Corfu!
Εδώ και ένα χρόνο αναπτύσσουμε στην Ελλάδα προγράμματα διακοπών αποκλειστικά για οικογένειες με μέλος στον αυτισμό. Δεν μας συναρπάζει μόνο η ιδέα να γίνει η Ελλάδα autism friendly, αλλά και όλη η διαδρομή προς αυτό, καθώς γνωρίζουμε συνεχώς επαγγελματίες τουρισμού, ξενοδόχους, διοργανωτές δραστηριοτήτων οι οποίοι επιθυμούν πραγματικά να μάθουν για τον αυτισμό και να εξελίξουν τις υπηρεσίες τους ώστε να εξυπηρετήσουν αυτές τις οικογένειες!
Εάν θέλεις να γίνεις μέρος αυτής της μοναδικής εμπειρίας, να μας βοηθήσεις στην εκπαίδευση ατόμων ή ακόμη να μεταμορφώσεις τη δική σου περιοχή σε autism friendly προορισμό, λάβε μέρος στο πρόγραμμα εθελοντισμού της A million senses και μπες στην ομάδα!
Για περισσότερες πληροφορίες επικοινώνησε μαζί μας εδώ!
Starting from 2016 we have been developing autism friendly holiday programs in Greece for families and it is always a rewarding but long experience! During this process we meet tourism professionals, accommodation providers, activity organizers and we are excited to see how eager they are to learn about autism and provide adapted services to those families.
If you are interested in being part of this process, helping us train others or assisting in transforming your area into an autism friendly destination, you can become a volunteer and work with our team. Learn more here.
...Continue below for the english vesrion
Είναι η πρώτη χρονιά που σχεδιάζουμε το Πάσχα με τη ματιά της A million senses και είμαστε ενθουσιασμένοι να ανακοινώσουμε δύο πολύ ιδιαίτερα προγράμματα για οικογένειες με μέλος στον αυτισμό. Ήταν η αφορμή να διερευνήσουμε τις περιοχές με εύκολη πρόσβαση τόσο για Έλληνες όσο και για ξένους και να γνωρίσουμε επαγγελματίες του τουρισμού που ήταν πρόθυμοι να συνεργαστούν μαζί μας για να παρέχουμε στις οικογένειες άνετες διακοπές προσαρμοσμένες στις ανάγκες τους.
Διαλέξαμε το Αίγιο και την Αθήνα, για όλους τους προφανείς λόγους. Επιπλέον όμως σχεδιάσαμε καθημερινές 6ωρες δραστηριότητες αποκλειστικά διαμορφωμένες για άτομα με αυτισμό, τόσο στους χώρους των ξενοδοχείων όσο και στη γύρω περιοχή. Κάθε λεπτομέρεια του προγράμματος είναι φροντισμένη από εξειδικευμένους επαγγελματίες στον αυτισμό και είμαστε σίγουροι ότι οι οικογένειες που θα συμμετέχουν θα έχουν ένα μοναδικό Πάσχα, όπου θα μπορούν να ξεκουραστούν και να χαλαρώσουν πραγματικά.
A million senses is proud to announce the first autism friendly Easter in Greece! We have been working hard to design the best holidays for families with a member with autism and Easter gave us a great opportunity to explore easy-to-access destinations and meet professionals in tourism who were excited to learn how they can adapt their services to make those families comfortable!
We have two programs, one in Athens and one in Aegio, two locations quite different but with countless options for fun activities and travel experiences. Apart from the autism friendly hotels we have created 6 hours of daily activities for the children with autism, within the hotel as well as in the areas around. Every little detail of our program is carefully designed by autism specialists making sure that every family that travels with us has an unforgettable Easter in Greece!
Aggela Menni - Communication
Vivi Sidirofagi - Program creator
Kostas Boulazeris - Financial administrator
Six months ago I was the opposite of autism aware. I had zero connection with social services in general and my first close knowledge about autism was from a friend, special educator who explained to me his work in schools for neurotypical children, supporting students with autism. Of course I admired the challenges he faced and how important his work is, but there were not much of an incentive there to make me care more.
Being sensitized in theory, I never had an opportunity to be more involved and I hadn’t even met a person in the spectrum before. It’s been six months since I met Aggela, co-founder of A million senses, in a start-up event. I was pitching my tourism project and that was a perfect timing for us to join forces. I put my knowledge in tourism and content creating and A million senses their vision for an autism friendly world and I have been part of the team ever since.
My role in A million senses is to help the message of the autism friendly world to take form and to reach people who will visit Greece because of its autism awareness, apart from all the obvious reasons. All these months I learned and wrote about autism, I realized how different the reality is between neurotypical people and people in the spectrum and I made some small steps in understanding the unique needs of those families. It’s a long way of course and I may not be able to learn or help as much as I want but the point is that A million senses reached me, a person with great distance from autism, and gave me at least a bit of awareness.
This is the reason that A million senses will soon reach its purpose to make Greece the first autism friendly destination. Because it is developed in a way that affects businesses, service providers, associates, partners, the wide range of people that it interacts with!
“I was a caregiver for an A million senses holiday program and my memories are nothing but sweet. I spent 4 days with an adorable young boy with autism and even though we had some difficulties, I remember smiling every day. The thing that surprised me the most was that I felt part of the family who was on holidays TOGETHER.
As a professional, being a caregiver with the A million senses is a unique knowledge opportunity. After my experience I became a better professional and a better person. Being on holidays is a different kind of situation than offering services in a school or a care center. We need to be attentive but at the same time more relaxed to help the family enjoy and decompress.
A million senses is not just a team. It is a big family who opens its arms to people with autism and their families to make sure their holiday is unforgettable.
Follow us, share our stories and be part of our dream to live in an autism aware world!
Chivas - The Venture is the remarkable initiative that rewards and supports the social start ups. It is all about growing financially while giving back to the community.
This year, Greece participated for the first time and A million senses was among the five finalists for the national contest. It was an amazing experience. Meeting teams of other start ups with innovative ideas, pitching our project and being considered for the international contest was more than a participation. It was a validation that A million senses is on the right track to make a change for people with autism.
The following video is our 5 minute pitch before the judges!
Welcome to A million senses – Unique holidays for unique people
Being an autism professional is definitely overwhelming, rewarding and challenging. Spending the past 20 years close to autistic people and their families, one stops thinking only how to help them overcome their everyday struggles, and starts inventing ways to make their lives wonderful.
At least that was the case for us, three autism professionals from the Greek island of Chios, who spent days and nights thinking of amazing things families with a member with ASD are missing because they are not supported enough. Holidays was for sure one of those things.
These families, have to overwork to achieve everyday tasks that are easy for other families, like getting ready for school or going to the playground. Many of them feel that they don’t deserve to go on holidays and if they do, they find support for their autistic member only in special camps. While the camp is an amazing experience, the whole family cannot spend their holidays together.
There was our idea – To design holidays for the whole family, fully adapted to the needs of the member with ASD.
We combined our expertise and everything that Greece offers, nature, culture and great weather all year long, and here we are - A million senses, holidays for individuals with ASD and their families. Our programs, for personalized and group holidays, include recreational activities for the member in the autism spectrum so that the whole family can spend time together and parents can rest and relax knowing that their child is in the trusting hands of autism professionals.
There is no doubt that this is just the beginning. Soon, A million senses will create programs for adults and make Greece a 100% autism friendly destination. Follow our travels and stories in amillionsenses.com and in our social media.