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Cruising for a Cause

Dr. Janet Bertoni volunteers on cruises and at resorts to help families traveling with special needs kids.

Vacationing is something every family looks forward to, but for families who have children with special needs, it can be hard to relax knowing the change of environment can be difficult for their loved ones. That is why Dr. Janet Bertoni, chair of the special education department at MU, volunteers with Autism on the Seas.

Autism on the Seas is an international organization that staffs professional volunteers and professional volunteer group leaders. These volunteers assist on cruises and resorts for families traveling with special needs kids ages three through adulthood.

Bertoni explains how important this organization is to many families. “Families with exceptional children struggle to vacation safely. The change in environment and routines can lead to changes in behavior that are unexpected and may cause concern to the comfort of others who observe these behaviors.”

“By providing professional volunteer staff including registered behavior technicians, special educators and board-certified behavior analysts,  we are able to provide assistance for these families to ensure that they can enjoy what is often their first family vacation since receiving a diagnosis,” Bertoni says.

Bertoni has much experience with Autism on the Seas, as she has been volunteering since 2018 and has served as a group leader for almost 30 weeks at sea. During her time with the organization, she has worked with families whose children have intellectual disabilities, anxiety disorders, emotional and behavioral disorders and other complex conditions.

This year, Bertoni is set to volunteer with Autism on the Seas for seven cruises ranging from five to eight nights. In addition, four MU students are volunteering with her throughout July.

One of the students volunteering with Bertoni is Mayah Nossbaum, a senior majoring in Dual Early Childhood Education and Special Education from Upper Dublin, PA. She explains why she took the opportunity to volunteer with Autism on the Seas. “As a future educator, this non-profit organization demonstrates that individuals with disabilities can achieve their goals, and have the abilities to do everyday tasks, such as going on vacation excursions and creating lasting memories.”

Bertoni notes that volunteering is a way she can keep up with her responsibilities as a special education professor. “As a professor whose job responsibilities include service to the community, this is one of the ways in which I make positive contributions to the autism community.”

Overall, Bertoni loves learning new strategies throughout her time volunteering and being able to share them with her students. “My favorite part of volunteering is learning about new behavioral intervention strategies from other practitioners and also being able to bring my experiences into my teaching as example cases for consideration in my class.”

 

 

2 replies on “Cruising for a Cause”

Thank you for your unwavering commitment to making a difference in the lives of others, Janet! Your kindness and generosity are truly making the world a better place, one vacation at a time!

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