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No on HBCC Agenda Item #20/Nov 21st

Natalie Moser's item #20, Exploring the Feasibility of Becoming a Certified Autism Destination, could open the door to endless spending and union exploitation

November 21st, 2023 Autism Destination Considerations for Huntington Beach

Re: Agenda Item #20 23-1021: Exploring the Feasibility of Becoming a Certified Autism Destination in Huntington Beach.


Accommodating those of all ages on the Autism Spectrum (persons with ASD or Autism Spectrum Disorder) may be commendable and desirable; however, there are serious concerns that should be considered before communities or destinations undertake even the study and assessment phase of becoming a designated Autism Destination or Autism Certified City.

There are hundreds of chronic diseases and conditions that affect children and adults in the US and across the globe and there are thousands of advocacy groups and organizations. ASD is one of the most common diseases and as the name implies has a wide range and level of disability – or lack thereof – for those affected. As a result, ASD has hundreds of topically related organizations, some charitable or non-profit but others that are decidedly for profit. Obviously, all need funds to operate.

There is a great deal of competition and marketing in the ASD support community/industry to secure funding or monetize programs. The alignment between charitable organizations involved in research or awareness and those involved with lobbying or promoting the profitable organizations is not always revealed and has cost some communities untenable commitments, resources and budget allocations. Before discussing the situation that occurred in Madison, Wisconsin, we should be familiar with a sampling of some organizations, processes and executional endeavors may be involved.

1. Embark on Study and/or“conduct a through review of the feasibility and requirements for Huntington Beach to become a Certified Autism Destination”

  • ▪  Any Study or Review requested of City Manager and staff requires hours and resources at a time when the community has been advised that the city is understaffed and those staff employed are critically overworked or at capacity for non-essential or non-urgent matters beyond regular assignments.

  • ▪  REVIEW suggests – and is supported by materials provided in attachments -- that the feasibility, SWOT and Lucid chart analysis are already prepared by an outside organization(likely IBCCES) and need only be learned.

  • ▪  Engaging with Experts implies that there will be need of SMEs (subject matter experts) and Consultants required. Most are not unbiased and all are at a cost.

  • ▪  Meeting with Stakeholders typically does not include most small businesses which are unable to meet requirements or cannot afford ONGOING employee time and training costs or certification/placard fees.

  • ▪  “Develop a plan to outline steps, resources, costs. . .” would mean a large undertaking by staff and seems presumptuous.

Autism Destination Considerations for Huntington Beach (cont’d)

Re: Agenda Item #20 23-1021: Exploring the Feasibility of Becoming a Certified Autism Destination in Huntington Beach

2. Designations of“Autism Destination City”and“Autism Destination”require

investment and are granted by organizations that are largely For Profit

  • ▪  Pay to Play? A few organizations have formed that purport to meet the needs of ASD persons especially for travel and entertainment. This is an aspiration with value but the process and commitment can be unwieldly.

  • ▪  The primary player in this arena is IBCCES, The International Board of Certification and Continuing Education. The organization produces or promotes course curriculum to support CEUs (Continuing Education Units), certification processes and various related for-fee programs.

  • ▪  IBCCES will lobby communities and provide extensive research and promotional presentation materials that a very persuasive. After all, being ASD-friendly is arguably thoughtful and attractive to those with ASD family members who have reactive symptoms.

  • ▪  Training is specially tailored for unique groups such as

  • ▪  “Develop a plan to outline steps, resources, costs. . .” would mean a large

  • ▪  There is a threshold for administrative and employee training for each entity as well as a number or percentage of businesses in a municipality that attain certification for that location to be certified.

  • ▪  For onboarding the city and participating entities must be assessed and (for locations) inspected – at a cost.

  • ▪  Training and certification is monitored and assessment/inspection is ongoing. At a cost. Considering employee turnover, facility changes and economic fluctuation this can easily become a burden especially to smaller businesses.

  • ▪  Designated ASD Travel Agents (IBCCES Certified) and networks are recommended if not required to book travel for ASD-family tourists. This is a separate Certification Program focused on the Travel Industry paid for by the agents or their companies. This may place unfair competition or undue burden on some independent, local agents.

  • ▪  Listings of designated cities and attractions may not be automatic or free.

  • ▪  Even with IBCCES certification there is some confusion about the meaning.

Autism Destination Considerations for Huntington Beach (cont’d)

Re: Agenda Item #20 23-1021: Exploring the Feasibility of Becoming a Certified Autism Destination in Huntington Beach

2. Alternatives to embarking on a full study for“Autism Destination City”

  • ▪  Understanding the needs of those with ASD challenges is advantageous for all public- facing businesses and services. There are many excellent resources locally and through non-profit organizations, a few of which are referenced here.

  • ▪  Golden West and Orange Coast Community Colleges have courses to familiarize family and community members about ASD including behavioral and environmental implications. This would be an excellent starting point for specific learning before launching a full staff study.

  • ▪  Autism Network International: this organization was formed and is run by verbal ASD individuals. They have resources available at no charge and fee-based training.

  • ▪  The Center for Autism and Neurological Disorders: Based in Costa Mesa, this organization provides extensive training and can tailor sessions for large groups.

  • ▪  The Star Institute: while their education programs were developed for professionals the are able to tailor sessions focusing of sensory development triggers and behaviors for community sessions.

  • ▪  AutismUp: this organization is somewhat more commercial but has affordable education and certification options.

  • ▪  CAN: Champion Autism Network is another experiential and certification operation but sems more community oriented and grassroots.

  • ▪  APA: The American Psychological Association was recommended for consultation in the Huntington Beach City council meeting Agenda Item #20. 23-1021 description/detail. This is a professional, for-profit, membership association. So is their Division 33 which specializes in ASD. It is likely that they would advocate for t hose organizations that have high membership, ongoing contracts or advertising programs with the association.

  • ▪  Timing: It seems clear that with the funds lacking for needed infrastructure improvements and the looming unfunded liabilities that this is not an opportune time to plan or undertake and extensive review or study, much less embark on a complex city certification effort. An ad hoc committee of interested parties could absorb the materials available and if deemed helpful, recommend a far simpler, more local source of education.

  • ▪  The IBCCES certification program includes elements that are similar to “Good Housekeeping Seal of Approval” and “Automobile of the Year,” meaning simply that a large and/or ongoing investment is required to stay in good graces.

  • ▪  Anecdotal information: I am aware of a community in the MidWest that worked on programs and certifications for a decade. The contributing parties included a University, Local Businesses, Amusement Park and the State Government. After four years they realized that there were major unintended consequences for the community. About 30% of their entities are certified but are “falling out” faster than others are gaining certification.

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