matt-and-alicia._20200127-164425_1 Matt with Alicia, his one-one-one AotS companion

Sterling, Michigian resident Matt Baughman is a pretty regular guy. He loves his family, friends, sports, and cruising. Matt is also on the autism spectrum, but wasn't diagnosed until he was 30 years old. Now 40, Matt says the diagnosis finally explained a lot of things, especially feeling overwhelmed by many day-to-day responsibilities.

Matt first cruised with Autism on the Seas in early 2019 with his mom, Marg, who passed away last June. Needing a break and a distraction from his grief, Matt decided to book a solo cruise with AotS when he learned that Sandy, the group leader from his first cruise, would be a staffer on an August cruise to New England and Canada.

"I met Sandy on our first cruise and we kept in touch," says Matt. "I knew if she was on the New England cruise, I would be okay, so I booked it and got a one-on-one AotS staff companion. It was great because I had someone to do things with when I wasn't attending respite time or activities with others in the program. Alicia came with me on excursions, trivia night, and the nighttime shows."

LISTEN to our podcast interview with Matt

Matt is an entrepreneur and advocate for people with autism. He regularly sets up a stand at the local mall and sells autism awareness sundries to educate families and help them to understand the importance of getting their child diagnosed early so they can get the help they need. He even made the local paper back in his hometown!

Matt's advice to parents with kids on the spectrum is to find ways to communicate with them the best way you can and get them into therapy as soon as possible.

The big thing for Matt on his solo cruise was gaining a sense of independence and belonging. "When I cruised with my family, I had no one else that was like me to interact with. I wish I had done this sooner. I had a lot of fun and participated in everything I wanted to and Alicia really helped me."

We look forward to hearing about your Bahamas cruise, Matt!