Autism-friendly days out in the UK
Why is it important for places to be autism friendly?
Autism can affect people in a variety of different ways, from experiencing sensory overload caused by loud noises, to finding ways to communicate differently. More and more leisure and entertainment spaces are becoming autism friendly, which means they’re implementing ways to help people living with autism to enjoy their trip with more comfort and confidence.
At Lifeways, we ensure that the people we support have the opportunity to experience days out in the community, and take part in activities which are of interest to them.
Craig is one of the people we support, and since coming to Lifeways, his confidence has grown exponentially. He now enjoys going to the local youth club and to quiz nights at his local pub.
“We went together on the train to the seaside and had an amazing day out cycling and fishing,” says his support worker, Lee.
Craig has also started doing some voluntary work, helping out on the radio station at the local college. “The list of new things he’s tackling seems endless.”
What makes an attraction or venue autism friendly?
Although days out for those living with autism don’t always require specific alterations to environments and surroundings, there are some attractions across the UK which cater specifically for those living with autism.
Whether it’s opening their doors an hour earlier or later to allow for quieter periods, or putting specific things in place to aid those with sensory issues, there are a number of things that attractions can do to create an autism-friendly environment. For example:
- Providing sensory maps which show quiet and noisy areas
- Detailing specific ‘quiet times’ for people with autism to attend
- Providing more visual forms of information to help people with autism plan their trip. This might be images of the entrance, staff in uniforms, or the activities they will see when visiting
- Offering specific autism-aware training for staff
- Creating quiet areas for downtime
Examples of autism-friendly days out in England
There are a number of autism-friendly days out up and down the country. Here are a few examples from each region, though it’s always worth checking with any attraction you’re planning to visit to see if they have help for those living with autism in place.
For sports fans, Newcastle United have started offering autism-friendly tours which have been created in association with North East Autism Society. Questionnaires will be sent out to carers/parents ahead of time, so that the club can understand the needs of each visitor.
Photos and videos for each area of the tour will also be sent out ahead of time, to allow visitors to familiarise themselves beforehand.
Eureka! in Halifax won a Gold Award from Visit England for accessibility. Essential carers get free access, and the venue provides ear defenders as well as having designated quiet spaces, including the “chill out room” which is available for visitors to use at any time. It’s a calm, relaxed room with big cushions, and if at any point it’s in use when you need it, the museum has other quiet rooms for you to use.
Ahead of your visit, there is an online Sensory Guide which can be found on their website.
National Museums Liverpool runs a series of quieter mornings around once a month, with family-friendly events, activities and workshops. These are available across their sites, including Museum of Liverpool, World Museum, Merseyside Maritime Museum, and International Slavery Museum, which includes the Lady Lever and Walker Art Galleries, and Sudley House.
There are also visual stories available for each museum, which are accessible guides written to help you understand what to expect from a visit.
Looking for support in Merseyside? Click here.
Sandcastle Waterpark in Blackpool has staff trained in autism awareness, and Water Ambassadors are on hand to offer additional support. Familiarisation visits and water-safe ear defenders are available, and there’s also an autism-friendly quiet room.
They have a sensory story which can help to prepare guests with autism for the sights, sounds, tastes, textures and smells which they may experience during their visit.
Sealife Centre Birmingham opens their doors an hour early to provide an experience that aims to give a more comfortable visit for those with autism and other sensory requirements. Music is switched off and TV volume is kept to a minimum during this time.
Looking for support in the West Midlands? Click here.
Lincoln Castle has a number of provisions for visitors with autism, such as ear defenders for hire on arrival and an autism-friendly guide which can be downloaded ahead of visiting.
Entry for carers is free, and there is a full list of accessibility information on their website.
Clip ‘n Climb in Nottingham is recognised as an Autism Friendly Venue and welcomes all visitors. They offer tailor made SEN sessions to help support and encourage participants, which are also at a lower capacity than usual.
There’s a detailed description of the Clip ‘n Climb experience on their website, as well as a 360 tour of the facilities.
The Science Museum has its ‘Night Owl’ events which are suitable for those 16+ that would benefit from visiting the museum free from the hustle and bustle of the general public. The museum is opened exclusively after hours and there are adjusted operations and lower volume levels on exhibits.
ZSL London Zoo and ZSL Whipsnade offer free Penguin Passes for those who have trouble standing in queues. They can be downloaded onto your phone ahead of your visit, or picked up from the admissions team, and will allow you to hop queues at admissions, retail or catering outlets and their walk-through exhibits.
There are also a number of resources available to help visitors feel ready and prepared for their visit to the zoo including visual and sensory stories.
Windsor Castle and many of the other Royal Collection Trust’s properties offer downloadable guides for autistic visitors, including the quietest times to visit, information on the facilities and what to expect in each area of the castle, including how to get around.
Across the UK
Cinemas across the country offer specially adapted screenings with reduced sound, no adverts and house lights on. Ask your local cinema if they offer autism-friendly or specially adapted screenings.
Theatres up and down the country regularly offer sensory-specific performances, with sensitive lighting, quieter microphones and shorter acts for those with autism.
How Lifeways can help
Lifeways offers both supported living and residential care for those living with autism. We understand the requirements for personalised support and therefore assess each person’s needs individually to ensure we’re able to provide the right support.
The level of support we provide is completely flexible - whether it's just a few hours a week or 24-7, we adapt our plan for each person. You can check out our blog on things to look for when choosing the right supported living service for a family member with autism or learning difficulties and start the search to find support near you.