TENAFLY, N.J. —All the glassware in the Alpine Suite at the Clinton Inn Hotel in Tenafly is unbreakable — the wine glasses, the water tumblers, even the glass in the cabinet doors.
The furniture has rounded corners with soft bumpers. A round table has replaced a square one. Flower vases and other decor have been glued down. The iron is stored behind a safety lock and the windows are locked. The television is fixed securely to the wall, instead of sitting on a credenza, as in other guest rooms.
Everything in the suite has been designed to give peace of mind to guests who have children with autism.
Even the inside lock on the door of the suite is mounted high, out of reach of small grasping hands. Most important of all, the door has an alarm that sounds — beep, beep, beep — if a child attempts a hasty exit.
"Autistic kids tend to wander," said Tony Morreale, the manager. "Parents need to know when they're wandering."
Morreale believes he is the first hotelier to accommodate these children and their parents with their own rooms and a specially trained staff.
Autism is a complex developmental disability that can appear between 18 months and 2 years of age. It is a neurological disorder that stunts a child's behavior, communication skills and social interaction. One in 94 children in New Jersey have a form of autism spectrum disorder, compared with one in 110 children nationally, according to federal health statistics.
"Each child is different," Morreale said. "We couldn't build a room for all of them. But safety is the universal word."
For all the love they engender, children with autism are still challenging, frustrating and exhausting for their parents. Traveling, especially staying in a hotel, can cause travail for all concerned.
Morreale speaks from experience: His 7-year-old son, Anthony, has autism and they learned how difficult it is to travel when they took him to Cape May, N.J., a few years ago.
"We stayed in a nice hotel, but it was a disaster," Morreale recalled. "He just didn't want to be there. He wanted to be where it was a familiar environment that he knew."
"He didn't understand the meaning of a hotel or a vacation," he said.
Exposure to uncomprehending adults is also tough.
"People look down at you like you're a bad parent," he said. "It's kind of sad, actually, for the whole family. So at our hotel, we provide a different strategy."
Families who have children with autism checking into the Clinton Inn are given a welcome box full of fun things, including puzzles, crayons, coloring books, a night light and a stick-on hand tattoo to identify children if they become lost.
Unbreakable items in the Alpine Suite include glassware for parents, "if they want to have a glass of wine, while their kids are bouncing off the wall," Morreale said. "It's not an easy lifestyle."
A special-needs menu, and complimentary in-room movie are also offered. In addition, 5 percent of the proceeds from guests in the suite go to the support organization Autism Speaks.
The Palmer's Crossing Restaurant & Lounge at the hotel has reserved Table 44 for autism families and will donate 10 percent of all meal checks to the Alpine Learning Group, an autism learning center in Paramus. The inn also promotes related organizations, such as Autism Speaks.
Morreale did a lot of research to find a similar hotel facility, but believes the Clinton Inn's "is the only one on the planet." The Alpine Suite opened only a few weeks ago, but already has satisfied customers.
Stacey and David Wohl stayed there recently with their autistic son, Logan. They also have an autistic daughter at a residential school.
"We were at Disney World, and Logan ran away" briefly, said Stacey. She also feared that her son, given to running around their $350 room, would fall off its unprotected balcony.
Logan, a tall, rambunctious 11-year-old boy, can ski. But a family trip last year to Stowe, Vt., also ended quickly because their room lacked a special lock and David Wohl had to spend the night sitting in a chair propped against the door.
"We don't have a life. That's why this hotel works so well for me," Stacey Wohl said. "They said they could help me. They have a private dining room."
Logan couldn't open the locked window in the suite, and the door alarm alerted her that he was trying to get out.
"This was easier for me," she said. "He couldn't break everything. We had peace of mind. We slept last night. It was comfortable and I wasn't nervous."