Planning and executing a family day out can sometimes feel like a military operation.
Firstly, finding an attraction, museum or location that will keep all the family entertained can be challenging. Packing and organising lunch boxes, spare clothes, wellies and arm-fulls of snacks and toys for the journey and getting everyone out of the door on time…do not get us started on getting out of the door!
Despite the likely increase to our stress levels, family days out are memory making and we are fortunate to have so many great attractions in the capital.
However, take a moment to consider how you will navigate the struggles we have outlined above if your child has special educational needs.
Suddenly, the stresses of a family day out take a stress making turn. Will the attraction you have chosen trigger your child’s sensory issues? Will the toileting and changing facilities be accessible, or even clean? Will your child be interested in the activity if it is not directly linked to their areas of special interest? That is before you must consider the other people…crowds, queues, noises and the dreaded…opinions.
All it not lost however! Family attractions, museums and galleries across the capital have been making moves of late to become more inclusive locations for our children. Tracey Proudlock of Proudlock Associates – Disability and Inclusive Design Consultants shares “Children need to share experiences and have fun together and I think it’s more important for existing attractions to focus on being more inclusive, rather than focusing on building new attractions aimed exclusively at disabled people”.
She continues, “being able to go on rides and play with other children is an essential part of growing up. Visitor attractions should aim to include rides which offer lift access, equipment which gives space for wheelchair users and stimulating activities which are based on what you feel when you take part, rather than on what you do. These are all important to enable and allow social interaction and to foster play relationships.”
So, what does an inclusive attraction look like? What features should parents look out for as they click to pay for tickets?
- Attractions which offer relaxed environments, considering lighting, music, and sound.
- Attractions that limit the number of attendees, so that it is easier to maintain personal space and control interactions, if needed.
- Attractions that have high quality personal care facilities.
- Attractions that have quiet rooms or spaces that parents can access throughout their visit.
- Attractions that train their staff to have a solid understanding of special needs and have an inclusive approach to their visitors.
- All attractions should have disabled access, however frustratingly, sometimes this is open to interpretation.
We realise that this list is somewhat of a pipe dream. However, there are attractions that do tick all the inclusive boxes and are well worth a visit!
Go to the movies!
Vue, Cineworld, Showcase and Odean have joined up with autism charity Dimensions to provide autistic friendly showings at its cinemas. These screenings do not have trailers, are at quieter times of the day and have limited ticket numbers. The house lights are kept on throughout the movie too. Click here for a list of all the accessible screenings taking place across the country.
The London Transport Museum have specific days for families with special educational needs. They open outside of regular opening hours to allow children to enjoy the attractions at a quieter time, with noisy exhibits turned down. The SEND Explorer days details can be found here.
The National History Museum hosts an inclusive event called Dawnosaurs. It is a free event for children with neurodiverse conditions (including autism and other sensory processing difficulties) to enjoy the Museum with their families and siblings, free from the hustle and bustle of the public. Visitors have access to a wide range of galleries and activities, supported by experienced, autism-aware facilitators. Booking is essential, find out more information here.
The British Museum offers ‘SEN Explorer Workshops’ for PMLD/SLD students. They can experience the sights, sounds, surfaces, and smells of the British Museum with time in the galleries to investigate some of the objects on display. These sessions need to be booked in advance here. The Museum also offers sessions for children who are visually impaired, allowing them to touch artefacts in the Egyptian and Parthenon rooms.
Museum of London
The Museum of London has a wide range of inclusive events, catering for differing needs for both children and adults. Their Morning Explorers events are specially designed for families with children on the autism spectrum. The events take place from 8.30-10am (before the museum opens to the public) and families can discover the galleries in a relaxed and quieter environment.
There are, of course, many more great attractions that offer inclusive experiences for children. We would love it if this blog post could spark a conversation. You are the experts and have had first hand experiences – share your best inclusive days out in the comments below. Let’s make some, inclusive, memories!