News and Notes from The Johnson Center

Q & A: When we come to The Johnson Center, how can we make the trip to Austin something the whole family will enjoy?

JCCHD | Tue, May 22, 2012 | [Community][Q and A ]

During their first visit to The Johnson Center, families can look forward to being in a supportive environment where they will meet with a team of knowledgeable professionals dedicated to helping their child reach their maximum potential. We understand that traveling can be stressful, so we would like to share some helpful tips on how to make the most of your trip to Austin. Because our city offers a variety of family friendly activities, it is easy to turn your visit into a mini-vacation. Many families like to book their appointments at the beginning or end of the week so they can stay over on the weekend. There’ s always something happening in Austin –  kite festivals, pet parades, live music, and more; one of our Family Care team staff members can research fun events happening during the time of your stay.

For our out-of-town guests, The Johnson Center has a partnership with the Wyndham Garden Hotel, Austin’s first and only hotel with accommodations designed for children with special needs.  Some of the accommodations include location of rooms chosen to reduce noise from elevators and other guests, non-toxic carpet cleaning, secure rooms with door alarms and secondary locks, appropriate toys and books, a special gluten-free/casein-free/soy-free menu, and a hotel staff trained in The Johnson Center “Autism Aware” program. Parents can travel more comfortably knowing that there is a safe environment and understanding staff.

We realize that many of our patients are on special diets. There are several Austin restaurants that offer special menus with those dietary needs in mind. From gluten- and- casein free barbeque at Rudy’s to gluten- and casein -free cupcakes at Delish, there are many wonderful food choices in town. In addition, our downtown Whole Foods is the flagship store and company headquarters, with an entire GFCF aisle as well as several small restaurants within the store.

If this will be your first visit to Austin, why not take a tour of our city on the Austin Duck Adventures Tour bus, a fun downtown tour that ends with a splash on Lake Austin? Or enjoy the beautiful scenery along the Shoal Creek Hike and Bike Trail. Our popular Zilker Park offers botanical gardens, sculpture garden, and boat rentals (both canoes and kayaks), making it the perfect place for a family to enjoy a relaxing outing on the water. A highlight of your trip may be a ride (or three) on the Zilker Zephyr – a ten minute mini- train ride through the park. If you need a break from the heat (it can get very, very hot here in the summer), take a swim in the Barton Springs Pool, a spring-fed swimming hole with constant 68-degree water.

At the end of the day, visitors can take part in the classic Austin tradition of gathering near the Congress Avenue Bridge to watch more than 1.5 million bats emerge at dusk.  Both the Peter Pan Mini Golf and the Austin Zoo also offer fun for all ages.  If you’re in the mood for something a little more low-key, families can catch a show at Barton Creek AMC Movie Theater. The AMC Theater and the Autism Society have teamed up to offer families affected by autism the opportunity to enjoy watching fun films in a safe and comfortable environment on a monthly basis with the “Sensory -Friendly Films” program. The movie auditorium keeps the sound turned down and the lights on, and families are able to bring in their own GFCF snacks. Audience members are welcome to talk, sing along, and move about during the show.

One of the area’s newest attractions for families with special needs is a short drive away in San Antonio. Morgan’s Wonderland is a 25-acre amusement park dedicated to children with special needs. The park offers a variety of “ultra-accessible” rides, games, playscapes, and activities for children of all ages. Many of our families budget time in their visit to The Johnson Center to spend a day exploring Morgan’s Wonderland.

We’re happy to help families make the most out of their trip to Austin and will provide guidance and support to ensure a fun and successful visit. In addition to the positive experience we hope you have at The Johnson Center, we hope you enjoy our unique city and help do your part to “Keep Austin Weird.”

Enjoy Austin!