Autism on the Seas (AotS) is committed to providing the disability community the most comprehensive vacations conforming to the accessibility and accommodation service needs the disability community requires. One way we accomplish this is through our Guest Advisory Board.
The Guest Advisory Board, comprised of past guests, strives to improve the overall AotS vacation experience by recommending improvements to the Advisory Team. Each of the board member has at least one child with special needs and has cruised with AotS at least once, most of them multiple times. They are extremely passionate about the value and benefit our cruises provide to families. This passion drives the Guest Advisory Board to listen to and understand the challenges faced by the vast majority of Autism on the Seas guests, and aide in developing improvements to better the cruise experience from booking to a personal follow-up after your cruise.
Topics of focus to the Board include, but are not limited to, the following:
- Services provided by AotS, cruise lines, and resort providers.
- Respite and respite activities provided during cruises and resort stays.
- Private group activities, such as rock wall climbing, ice skating, bungee trampoline, etc.
- Dining experiences, including staffed meal times.
- Beach excursions
- Pre-vacation planning/services
- Public and Private Facebook pages
- Autism on the Seas web site content
The Board is guided by the following Core Values.
- Diversity - Ensure contribution of people with diverse personal characteristics (including but not limited to race, ethnicity, religion, age, geographic location, sexual orientation, gender and type of disability).
- Relevance - Work together to develop and deliver experiences, content and outcomes that are relevant and accessible to AotS families and staff.
- Integrity - Demonstrate the highest standards and ethical behavior.
- Respect - Respect all individuals and valuing their contributions.
The Guest Advisory Board Members
Jim Catteau, Naval Officer and Chairperson of the Board
Lives in North Carolina
Jim is the married father of two young adults, one of which is on the Autism spectrum. Jim has over 21 years of experience raising his autistic child, with all of the trials, tribulations, and successes common to most Autistic and special needs families. Jim enjoys sharing this experience, both good and bad, with other families in the hope of having a positive impact on their lives. Although they only discovered Autism on the Seas and cruising in 2014, Jim and his family are seasoned travellers and have successfully arranged the accommodations necessary to make family vacations possible.
Aimee Cayer, Autism on the Seas Representative
Lives in Connecticut
Aimee is married with two daughters, one of which has Asperger’s and Ehlers Danlos Syndrome. Prior to starting with Autism on the Seas she worked with special needs adults as a job coach. She also co-leads a Girl Scout troop that has three special needs girls and eleven typical girls. Her family has sailed twice with Autism on the Seas and look forward to many more.
Allison D’Ambrosio, Special Education Advocate
Lives in New York
Allison, a twenty year veteran of the behavioral health and special education fields, is the married mother of three very active boys. When her two special needs children started school, Allison worked with an advocate to receive the best possible educational services. She was also inspired to study educational law and recently opened her own business, First Child Advocacy. Allison and her husband Paul recently took the kids on their first incredible cruise with Autism on the Seas. They enjoyed themselves so much that they started to plan their next cruise before they disembarked!
Lives in Romania
Lorie is married with one son who has Pervasive-Developmental-Disability-Not-Otherwise-Specified (PDD-NOS) and ADHD. Although Lorie spent most of her career in mortgage banking, she’s always been very passionate about working with special needs children. Lorie has been trained in ABA and is currently homeschooling her son in Bucharest, Romania. Lorie and her family have cruised several times with Autism on the Seas and want to help other families enjoy their cruising experience as much as they have.
Lives in Pennsylvania
Carol is the stay-at-home mother of four children with one on the Autistic spectrum. After many unsuccessful attempts to travel as a family, she and her husband Dan found Autism on the Seas and had a wonderful time. Because of her experiences, she feels very passionately about sharing information about Autism on the Seas and the services they offer with other families in the Autism community and helping other families have the best possible experience on her vacation.
Karrin Lukacs, University Professor
Lives in Virginia
In addition to teaching teachers how to teach, Karrin wears many hats - including wife, daughter, sister, friend, community volunteer, and Girl Scout leader. The most important is being a mom to her children Matilda and Michael, who is on the autism spectrum. She and her family have been cruising with Autism on the Seas since 2011.
Shari Sand, MSN-RN, BC
Lives in Pennsylvania
Shari is a Board Certified RN for the Department of Veteran’s Affairs. She has been married for 25 years to her husband, Tom, and they are the parents of two young adult sons. Her youngest son is on the Autism spectrum. She has spent the past 20 years navigating the complex world of special therapies, education, and most recently pre-vocational programs as her son just aged out of the school system. Combining the thrill and agony of raising a differently abled son with caring for aging parents, she understands the true meaning of the “sandwich” generation. She and her husband just recently discovered Autism of the Seas and now plan to cruise more often! They are also big Disney fans and love rooting for their beloved Pittsburgh Pirates.
Lives in Pennsylvania
Emily is a stay at home mother of two children one of whom is on the autism spectrum. She and her family love to travel and were thrilled to find Autism of the Seas in 2013. Since then they have sailed seven times with the Autism of the Seas staff and one time without staff but through Autism of the Seas. Emily is passionate about this organization and excited to help other families have the best possible vacation on the seas.
Lives in Pennsylvania
Jerry, a career firefighter and paramedic, is the married father of two children, one of which is diagnosed with Asperger’s Syndrome. He has cruise twice (so far!!!) with Autism on the Seas, once in 2012 and again in 2014. He also supports his wife’s efforts to co-found an Asperger’s Syndrome support group in Franklin County, PA.
Lives in Nevada
The father of a teenager with Autism, Randy served 20 over years in the Air Force as a fighter pilot and currently flies commercial airliners for a living. He and his family have become enthusiastic vacationers and cruisers since travelling with Autism on the Seas for the first time in 2010 and have participated in numerous cruises since. His positive experiences with Autism on the Seas coupled with extensive leadership and program management skills from his military career led to Randy’s selection as the Sponsorship Director for the Autism on the Seas foundation.