Friday, 4 June 2010

Autism & Theme Parks


Happily, autism is something theme parks seem to do well (from my limited experience!)

Today we went to Legoland Windsor with some trepidation - theme parks really should be an autistic version of hell, offering the twin no-no's of massive sensory overload and unpredictability.

However, the combination of fantasy 'worlds' & 'lands' and the fun-factor makes them really appealing to autistic kids.

After visiting Disneyland Paris, Lyla declared that she wanted to live there 'forever and ever'.

Like many places, Legoland offer a free ticket for the carer of a disabled child, but additionally, they offer a special pass for disabled kids which allows them immediate access onto all the rides.

From the description on their website, it's very clear that Legoland's policy relates specifically to autism and related conditions and reading this was what encouraged us to go:

LEGOLAND Windsor’s exit pass policy has been designed to assist Guests’ who do not understand the concept of queuing, have difficulties with everyday social interaction, have a limited capacity to follow instruction or to understand others emotional feelings or expressions, and may become agitated or distressed having to wait for periods of time. The scheme is in place to assist families to enjoy their day in the maximum way and to relieve pressure on the family.

Without this facility there is absolutely no way we would even have attempted Legoland.

As it was, when we had to queue in a boat to get off a ride as one of the boats had broken down, I had to physically restrain Lyla from jumping out of the boat and into the lake as she was 'bored, I'm getting out now'!

About halfway through the day, Lyla clocked that we were able to jump all the queues and asked why- when I explained, she said, 'Oh, because I'm a VIP'.

Yes Lyla, you are.


Some tips for making Legoland easy:
1. In school holidays, arrive at least half an hour before the park opens, otherwise you will queue in traffic for ages and arrive already stressed out!
2. The Exit pass is a must for autistic kids, it makes it do-able
3. Bring your own food- the food in Legoland is good, but very expensive and the sheer variety will upset and confuse your autistic child
4. Leave at least an hour before closing time- you will probably have had enough by then anyway as you will have been to choose which rides you wanted to go on without haveing to queue and you don't want your day to be ruined by a huge queue to get out of the carpark
5. Use the Lost Adult stickers (containing contact info if the child gets lost), if only for your peace of mind and watch your autistic ones like hawks!!



Photo by Me.

6 comments:

  1. wow - thanks RAchel - didn't realise legoland had this policy. We went last year. Will find out more as G has often asked to go back.

    Glad you had a good day and thanks for the tips.

    Amelia.x

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  2. Sounds like a good day. How fab is their policy to help make your day go well. Mich x

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  3. Wow, just goes to show what is possible when some intention is applied eh? I am still to brave the theme parks with my kids!

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  4. I don't have an autistic child but have a few friends with autism and whilst they are adults this kind of advice still applies for when we go on days out.

    If you ask me it should be standard practise the Exit pass across all theme parks. As autism becomes understood on the wider plain it's companies like Legoland that could lead the way - they should be applauded for recognising autism as still too many attractions don't.

    Great blog Rachel.xxx

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  5. Thanks for this. My husband has been on about going to Legoland for ages, being that we live in Maidenhead it's the only readily accessable theme park when you have to use public transport.

    I have always poo pooed his idea becausxe the sheer thought of going just puts me off.

    We did attempt Beale and spend the day with a surly autistic pre-teen who would rather be at home playing Pokemon on her DS.

    However, thanks to your review and am now giving Legoland more consideration.

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  6. how great that they have such a pass, The understanding of Autism is becoming so much better. Glad you had a lovely day.

    I have to admit that when I read the wording "Guests who do not understand the concept of queuing" I did wonder if this means they give a pass to any French people who show up. Or to anyone under the age of three!

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