“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.