In Dutchess County, we “ThinkDIFFERENTLY.” Across the county, community members, local businesses and organizations have answered the call to make the Hudson Valley more inclusive for all. Tourism-related businesses like hotels, local attractions, restaurants and even entire towns such as Rhinebeck, have looked for ways to support those with different needs. Dutchess County was named one of the "5 destinations designed for autism-friendly travel" by Matador Network.
It goes beyond renovating buildings and park grounds to make them more accessible for those with physical challenges, but also how we engage with and ensure equal participation of everyone of all abilities. In August 2021, Dutchess Tourism completed Anderson Center's Autism Supportive Environment℠ training which began a dialogue on how the local tourism industry could better support our visitors. Over 100 businesses in Dutchess County have received the Autism Supportive Environment training.
The Wonderland of Lights
The Wonderland of Lights is Dutchess County's newest holiday attraction. Located on the Dutchess Fairgrounds in Rhinebeck, visitors can drive through an almost mile-long dazzling light display starting November 25 through December 26. Anderson Center Consulting created a social story to help individuals with Autism or those with developmental and intellectual disabilities prepare for their experience.
Apple picking has become one of the region's favorite seasonal activities. There's nothing like roaming the apple orchards on a beautiful autumn day with dozens of varieties including Macintosh, Honeycrisp, Cortland, and Fuji to choose from. Dutchess County is home to eight family-owned farms with Pick-Your-Own apple and pumpkin activities. Anderson Center Consulting created a social story for this not-to-be-missed fall outing to help individuals with Autism or those with developmental and intellectual disabilities prepare for their experience.
A social narrative or social story is a visual tool used to help explain more difficult concepts or prepare someone for new or less familiar experiences. Social narratives are especially helpful for individuals with neurodiversities and those who are more “visual learners.”
Apple picking is a great fall activity but could be stressful for someone who has never been before and may not know what to expect. Preparation helps! The social narrative guides the learner through the experience with a lot of visual depictions which can help reduce the stress of the new or less familiar experience.
A social story should be reviewed with the individual multiple times in the days or weeks leading up to the event. It’s best to review a social narrative/story in a neutral location when the individual is calm and comfortable.