As World Autism Awareness Week comes to a close, I thought it would be important to write this article as in 2018 the CDC determined that approximately 1 in 59 children are diagnosed with an autism spectrum disorder. The key to making the world a more accepting place is understanding, and as awareness spreads, companies and businesses across the country are becoming more accommodating. Here in Hull & East Yorkshire we are fortunate to have a plethora of forward thinking companies who offer fun and exciting activities and events that accommodate for people on the autistic spectrum with special SEN sessions. I’ve been in close liaison with several parents and charities within the local area to bring this brief guide to help spread awareness of these sessions, and hopefully make a difference in your child’s social life.
Opened in 2002, ‘the world’s only submarium’ is an iconic building in Hull’s skyline. Home to 5,000 animals including stingrays and sharks, The Deep is a brilliant place for both learning and entertainment. The aquarium welcomed over 850,000 visitors in its first year, making it busier than London Zoo. With them being an international player in marine conservation by working on pioneering research schemes to protect the future of our oceans, The Deep’s ethos spreads from being helpful to the sea to being helpful to the community around it: ‘We are committed to accessibility for all visitors, we are continually updating and adding to our wide range of tools and information to ensure an accessible family day out.’
Maria Bell: ‘The Deep are autism friendly. They invited us to speak with the staff as volunteers for National Autistic Society & parents. They wanted to be inclusive for everyone & there are many provisions to help a visit, including a social story on the website & Youtube.’
The Deep offers a great SEN session called Tranquil Tuesdays which is held on the first Tuesday of the month (excluding school holidays). The session is from 3pm until closing and features all the sounds being turned down along with the lights being brighter. So if your little one has a keen interest in the ocean and sea life, The Deep is a great opportunity for a fantastic day out of enjoyment and learning.
Coming straight from the recommendation from the parents within the autistic society is the newly renovated Odeon Luxe located on Kingston Park. While the cinema offers a luxury experience for a fraction of the price of other cities, Odeon have a very strong message when it comes to accessibility. They believe the world of cinema should be for all and for that to be achievable, understanding and compassion has to accompany it.
To promote social inclusion, the cinema offers specially adapted Autism Friendly Screenings of new releases one Sunday morning each month in which the lights are kept on at a low level, the sound is quieter than usual, no trailers or advertisements are shown, and an allowance for increased levels of movement and noise. They also accept the CEA card which entitles the holder to one free companion ticket, making it a little cheaper for carers.
From my own experience in visiting with my younger brother, the staff are very patient and understanding, and are happy to explain anything in more detail to him if he asks.
Rock Up is the indoor climbing experience for thrill seekers of all ages, who’s goal is to bring the outdoors inside and make climbing accessible to everyone. Located in St Stephens Shopping Centre, Rock Up have been great supporters of the autistic society and put on helpful SEN friendly climbing sessions every month to provide an opportunity for children with specific needs to enjoy their facilities in a quieter, calmer environment.
This allows for children on the spectrum to engage in exercise in a more relaxed and fun environment and ultimately provides a different kind of day out. The sessions are run in a calm and quiet environment with no music and a limited capacity every 1st and 3rd Saturday in Hull.
One of the latest additions to the leisure offerings at St Stephen’s Shopping Centre, Funstation is the perfect attraction for the kids. Packed full of great arcade games, it also offers a unique mini bowling experience for your little ones plus laser action games for the bigger ones.
Kelly Kendrew: ‘I wanted to arrange a birthday party for my son who is autistic. When I mentioned it they said they would be willing to help by reducing the noise and offering quiet spaces, plus they said the menu could be altered. It was genuine awareness and a willingness to adapt to the needs of the children.’
Life For A Kid Foundation – Sensory Room
LFAK’s aim is to help children under the age of 16 by offering funds and equipment to help them lead a better life. The Sensory Rooms foster an atmosphere of relaxation for the children when they visit. This is a good principle for the children’s emotional health and it will give them a chance to explore their feeling and to become interested in their environment. This claiming environment is a place where parents/carers will have time to bond with their children, providing a restful and peaceful experience in today’s busy and sometimes stressful lifestyles.
Dawn Christmas: ‘They have given us a lifeline, we can take [our son] somewhere he loves. We can use the gym and nothing is too much trouble. The services are available to all.’
Swimming at Haltemprice Leisure Centre via Maxi Fun
Another session I have personally attended is SEN swimming sessions at Haltemprice Leisure Centre in Anlaby. The sessions are set up by Maxi Fun, a local group for children with special needs, and run every Friday evening at 7.30pm until 9pm. The staff are aware and open minded, making the experience worry free and relaxing. Also being surrounded by other parents and carers is a great social experience. I always feel homely and welcome when I attend these sessions with my little brother.
Alison Lilley: ‘The children enjoy the sessions they go to. It’s fun and also good exercise, plus the parents can chat and socialise with others. There’s hoists, facilities and trained staff on hand to help.
Inflata Nation Beverley
These sessions are designed specifically for those on the autistic spectrum and their families to enjoy. They wanted to offer something different for those with autism to take part in and be an activity that their whole family can enjoy alongside them. These sessions also provide an opportunity for families to meet other families facing similar paths in a fun and safe environment.
Sally Norton: ‘We explain the children have additional needs when we book and it’s never a problem. The staff often go in to play with them & closely supervise. The main thing is we are not made to feel any different & accepted anytime.’
The number of participants is halved, the music is turned down, a parent/carer can enter the arena FREE of charge with every participant. There is complimentary juice and biscuits for all participants following the session. Sessions take place Saturday morning at 9am