The Grand Strand welcomes autism families with open arms! Autism mom and founder of Champion Autism Network, Becky Large, saw a need and continues to meet it by providing fun and entertainment to visiting and local autism families. Through her efforts, Champion Autism Network collaborates with numerous businesses to offer autism-friendly events and discounts. Invest in a CAN card to participate in these events. April 2022 is packed with opportunities!

Ripley’s Aquarium

Sensory-Friendly Event | April 2, 9:00-11 am

Perhaps you figured this was not an option for you but CAN has made it possible! During this event, Ripley's Aquarium becomes delightfully quiet with lights up where possible and sound effects turned off. The only sensory input here is the beauty of the fish. There’s even a room for quiet reflection on the tanks. Sound cancelling headphones are available at guest services and as a CAN guest you may exit through the front door and skip the gift shop. Show them your CAN card to get our CAN family special rates. Adults: $15, Children 6-11: $12, Children 3-5: $7.

The Grand 14 Movie Theater

“Sonic, The Hedgehog” | April 9, 10 am

The theater is reserved just for autism families. Lights will be up, sound will be down and kids can move about and make all the noise they need to so they can just be themselves without fear of judgement. Doors open at 9:30. If you purchase a $5 CAN card the movie is free for your whole party. Drinks and popcorn costs $1 each and all other concessions will be available as well.

Who loves bowling?

April 10, 11 a.m. to 1 p.m. 

Strike!!!! We love bowling! Myrtle Beach Bowl lends us the whole alley for some bowling fun. Lights will be up and music down (except for the pins crashing it will be much quieter!). To bowl costs only $1 per person and shoe rental is also $1!  Hotdogs, chicken nuggets, grilled cheese and 3 oz. drink cost only $3 for our families. At the end of bowling, we’ll celebrate all the April birthdays with cupcakes courtesy of Kroger Foods Carolina Forest.

Come have dinner!

April 10, 5:00 pm

Saltaire Coastal Kitchen at Holiday Inn Oceanfront in Surfside Beach lends us their whole dining room. We can accommodate forty people and the chef is happy to help with diet limitations. The Holiday Inn Oceanfront is right on the beach too so leave some time for an evening stroll. Dinner starts at 5 p.m. and you can purchase your favorite items off the menu including gluten free options. Restaurant etiquette is not expected at this dinner. It’s not unusual to see a parade of children running around or playing on the floor. This is also a great opportunity for parents to meet each other. We usually end the night with a few rounds of bingo and prizes. Saltaire Coastal Kitchen is a CAN certified autism supportive restaurant which means the staff has been educated about autism and welcomes us with open arms!

Myrtle Beach State Park

April 12, 10:30 am - 1 pm

It’s time for school vacation and playing outdoors! Start at shelter B-3 for a guided visit to the nature center where you can see saltwater aquariums, live reptiles and a backyard habitat busy with native birds. At 11:30 there will be a break for lunch followed by games and crafts. $5 per adult. $2 per kid ages six to fifteen and free for kids age five and younger. The fee covers your park entrance and lunch. Feel free to stay and play in the ocean or walk the beautiful trails. Visit Champion Autism Network’s Facebook page to register.

Here comes the Easter Bunny!

April 16, 10 am

Surfside Beach is hosting an Easter Egg hunt in Passive Park just for kids with autism and special needs. From there, at 10:30, you can head over to the Firehouse for a sensory friendly visit to the firetrucks. No sirens, we promise!! 

Calling all teen chefs!

April 23, 9:00 am 

Ultimate California Pizza Kitchen in Surfside Beach is opening its doors to our young adults, ages sixteen and older, to make a pizza in a professional kitchen. Their amazing staff will teach them how to shape the dough and put on the toppings. Each individual pizza costs $5. We get the whole restaurant to ourselves but be sure to register as there are only 15 openings for ‘Chefs.” Bring the whole family and join us for pizza and fun!

For more details about the CAN card which gives you discounts and services up and down the Grand strand, visit the Champion Autism Network website. You can also join their newsletter to get current events for whenever you visit. Their Facebook page always has the latest events and registration details too. #ComePlayWithUSA and #YesYouCAN