10 Autism and SEN friendly activities for this Autumn

Updated 28/02/19

Over at picturepath® we think it’s tremendous to see how rapidly Autism Hour is taking off. It’s a national campaign run by the National Autistic Society which encourages businesses to take simple steps for 60 minutes to make things more Autism friendly.

Autism Hour has got us thinking that there’s a lot of places that are Autism friendly all year round. We have been pulling together our best recommendations for this Autumn, from our personal experiences or recommendations from parents and carers. If you have any further recommendations that we could share then please don’t hesitate to let us know!

Here are our recommendations for places you might want to visit this Autumn:

1. The National Football Museum
Located at Urbis in Manchester, this is a wonderful, Autism friendly museum. Once a month they have been opening their doors an hour early on a Sunday just for people on the autistic spectrum. When we visited they also had many opportunities for free play on their interactive exhibits, such as penalty shootouts. There is also an Autism friendly guide which you can download from their website prior to your visit.
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2. Wheels For All
Wheels For All is a nationally recognised programme which allows children and adults with special needs to experience cycling. They have a large range of specially adapted cycles and the activities are great fun as well as physically and mentally stimulating. The Wheels for All leaders have the knowledge and confidence to work with adapted cycles, which allows participants to enjoy the many benefits of cycling. There are over 50 centres nationwide, and 8 in Greater Manchester. The session days and times vary by location, and you pay a donation to join in.
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3. Jump Nation Autism Friendly Session
The Autism friendly sessions at Jump Nation are a brilliant idea and run from 9am to 10am every 3rd Saturday of the month. A heads up, you do need to book in advance. At the Autism friendly sessions the venue is only filled to half capacity, parents and carers go free, siblings are welcome, the music is turned down and you get free juice and biscuits after the session. This activity gives carers and siblings a great place to meet other people who understand the challenges of Autism, as well as a safe place for your child to bounce. It’s brilliant not having to worry about what other people there think of your child’s behaviour as you are all in the same situation.

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4. Jump Space
Staying with trampoline places, there’s a lot of families who love Jump Space in Stockport. Jump Space is a specialist centre offering Rebound Therapy, Trampolining and Sensory play. They mainly cater for people with disabilities and their families (and they encourage siblings to take part as well). They provide a safe, fun, understanding and non-judgmental environment for disabled children and young people, many of whom, due to their impairments, are unable to access other forms of sports and activities. The centre is fully accessible with hoist equipment available for the trampolines, ball pool, sensory area and accessible toilet facility. Jump Space now has a team of seven staff, six being coaches who are trained to teach Rebound Therapy & Trampolining.

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5. Eureka!
This is a firm favourite of ours. It is an interactive children’s museum and educational charity based in Halifax, where “children play to learn and grown-ups learn to play”. It has hundreds of interactive, hands-on exhibits designed to inspire children aged 0 to 11. All essential carers of disabled visitors get free admission – just bring along a form of ID. Eureka also offers support for disabled children and their families: quite literally, an extra pair of hands, with a trained ‘enabler’ accompanying you during your visit. It also runs a range of events and clubs for children with disabilities, including one for children on the Autistic spectrum.
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6. The London Eye
The London Eye offers a special discounted rate to disabled guests booking through the disabled booking line. An accompanying carer will receive a free ticket for the same ‘flight’. Discounted rates vary for adults, children and the under-fives, so be sure to state the age of the person applying for the special rate. To book tickets, use the disabled booking on +44 (0)871 222 0188 or email accessiblebooking@londoneye.com.
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7. London Transport Museum
Staying in London, Freddie absolutely adored the London Transport Museum in Covent Garden. There are old buses and trains, some of which you can get behind the wheel and ‘drive’, plus special exhibitions and space for children to explore. His favourite thing though was finding the 13 hole punch machines to punch holes in your entry ticket. Hours of fun running around the whole museum! It can get very busy during holidays – especially if the weather is poor – so for a quieter time try visiting 10am to 11am and then from 4pm to 6pm. Family learning workshops take place during holidays, including storytime and craft. Children are free up to the age of 16, and paying adults can use their ticket multiple times over a year.
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8. Cinemas
On those rainy days, what could be better than a trip to the cinema? Cineworld has started showing Autism friendly screenings where lights are left on, the volume is reduced and you can bring your own food. If you go to their website then you can find details of the screenings. Home in Manchester is also highly praised for its Autism friendly screenings too with a chill out room that you can go to if it all gets a bit overwhelming.
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9. Manchester Museums
Many museums offer great Autism friendly sessions. We’ve enjoyed going to the Manchester Museum. Activities take place before the Museum opens to the general public on the second Saturday morning of each month. A different gallery is open at each early opening. In October it is the Fossils Gallery where Stan the T-Rex lives. The Autism friendly sessions are for children and young people aged 5-16 with a parent or carer and siblings are welcome and the museum also has a quiet room available.
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10. Chester Zoo
Chester Zoo has been a member of Autism Together’s Champion scheme since 2015, meaning that 10% of their staff are fully trained in Autism awareness.. The award-winning zoo was one of the first organisations to be made a Champion, and has received great feedback regarding the adjustments and Autism friendly approaches that the staff there have used, with 240 staff receiving extra training to become Autism champions. Carers get in for free and they go out of their way to make it a great experience. Although pricey, the Christmas Lanterns is a great way to see the zoo in the dark, full of sparkle, animal-inspired illuminations and a sprinkling of snow!
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That’s a few of our favourites. What are yours? Please leave us a comment and if we get enough suggestions we’ll have to write a follow up article!