You may notice that I don’t really write that much about The Sensory Seeker on here anymore and that’s for two reasons. One is the obvious reason that things have changed in the world of blogging in terms of children’s privacy. Some would argue it’s always been the case but honestly it wasn’t as bigger deal back 11 years ago. Of course he is also older now.
Of course there are complications in his life that are mostly related to his age, but as I say a lot is too personal and private to share. But mostly things are going really well.
However, I also feel a bit of a fraud. Things are going so well for him now compared to when he was younger it almost feels like we got it wrong. That he doesn’t need so much help. Thing is his needs are by and large being met. Comparison maybe the thief of joy, but when I listen to others I know how lucky we are. So I mostly stay silent, fearing my knowledge is limited.
Yes there’s the odd thing that The Sensory Seeker struggles with, of course, but currently he is perfectly supported. Least I hope. Any difficulties seem so minor that they seem pointless to post about.
Reading Back Through Old Posts
But then I was tidying up the blog, and rereading through old posts. It became clear that previously I was not happy with one of his schools that the way they treated me, and him. That this had really impacted on his journey.
If anyone in education is reading this for ideas on how to support then know it can make such a difference. That actually things can be good and it was important to share that too.
The current school acknowledge that he has Sensory Issues that he masks at school and are happy to support them. Mostly he doesn’t want to appear different so hasn’t got a wobble cushion or ear defenders (when they most likely would benefit him). He isn’t managing his sensory difficulties fully but turns out he does have strategies he is using himself at school – which is brilliant. No-one will do it for him when he leaves school, so he needs to learn to manage it himself.
The Current School
Yesterday I went to The Sensory Seeker’s Year 9 Annual Review for EHCP meeting. Beforehand I was really quite anxious about how his EHCP probably didn’t have things in it to ensure everything was okay after he left school. This was due to the EHCP phase transfer review for year 10 talk I went to making me realise how important it was.
His current school is marvelous. In fact the Year 9 annual review felt like we just had a chit chat, but that actually everything was sorted. Covered not just for now (which it is) but future proofed too. There was talk of transport training and exams; help with DofE and what he wants to do for the long term. He’s even going to learn to make tea and cake – which is fantastic given that currently he says he wants to stay at home forever.
Okay some of it makes me feel a bit sad because there is still so much he’s struggling with, but there’s supports. Plus he’s working really hard. Sometimes I wish he could stay here forever because it’s obviously a nurturing environment. But alas there’s nothing after GCSEs and he will have to move on.
Sorry this is such a badly written, and thrown together post. But I figured that it was important if anyone was reading about his journey and fearing for their child’s future. Because things are going well and they should see how possible that is – but know that the right support is essential.
When it comes to older children parents can help them learn to manage their own sensory needs. The most important thing to realise, is that it is the children themselves who know best. They are the ones experiencing things and can tell what works and what doesn’t.
Here are some suggestions for parents helping their older children to learn to manage their own sensory needs. Special thanks to some local parents for their help some neurodivergent themselves.
How Parents Can Help Older Children
First parents need to accept that their child is making those choices because they need to, rather than the fact they are trying to get out of something. But, on the other hand not all of them really will be to do with the sensory needs, but that they are becoming more autonomous, just like their peers.
As they mature it could be that the child can hold a full and frank conversation on the issue, and less likely that parents will need to rely on making conclusions based on their behaviour alone.
Parents should let children express their views and respect their decisions. Parents should listen to what they are told – believing it and acting accordingly. Parents should assume competence in their child, including when judging when the child can or cannot handle something, and what supports that young person needs in place.
Give Older Children More Choices
Parents/carers have to show them that they have choices; which will also help them to feel in control of their decisions. This will also hopefully promote independence. Allowing self-management where possible. However, try not to limit the choices, giving as many as possible.
Allow them to select things when shopping for clothes, or deciding what to wear (I know how I like to wear the same clothes – for me it is the feel and the practicality); by having lots of breakfast options available for them to select from; and so on. See Sensory Processing Issues with Clothing.
Alter Your Boundaries Accordingly
Question why we want things a certain way. Is it really important (eg their teeth will become bad, risk of skin cancer for not wearing sun cream) or is it something we would like them to do? Personally I get hot super easily and people always want me to wear more clothes when they feel it is colder – how many parents feel that their child NEEDS a coat in winter, when they’re honestly not cold!
This may mean altering your own boundaries of what you feel is acceptable. In the breakfast example our son will eat plain pancakes but cannot make them himself. He has recently started learning to cook himself toast but will only eat it smeared in jam. As parents we do not feel that jam every day is good for his health, but actually his independence is more important. We keep having discussions about why we do not feel jam every day is good and suggest alternatives but ultimately it is him who needs to decide to change this.
Give Older Children Explanations
This will involve having plenty of discussions about things. This will also help them to consider and extend their understanding of their own needs.
Like it is no good just telling them that they have to brush their teeth but what could happen as a consequence if they chose not to do so. That the choice is actually theirs. Get them to consider what it is about brushing their teeth that makes them not want to do it. Help them think about the choices they have in regards to when, where and how they brush (what type of brush and paste) their teeth.
Help them to Understand their Sensory Needs
It may be that the child does not understand and needs more support. Sometimes the child will have put in their own strategies but without even realising it. Parents could talk to their child and help them better understand what tools and strategies they are using. For example, I know that The Sensory Seeker calms down when he gets into his Art or Music.
This may include acting out scenarios – even things that have happened before or what may happen so that they know what to do in that situation. Help them devise a sensory diet and incorporate feedback into daily activities.
The chronological age may not match development, so make sure that everything is appropriate for where they are at. Develop the language around sensory awareness and model it. Also be aware that some of the ways they may self soothe may need monitoring too – especially for things like online gaming.
I hope this has been useful; is there anything else you can think of please?
Throughout their education there are several points in time where an EHCP Phase Transfer Review is held. These are when the child or young person generally changes provision. They can be points where the EHCP is looked back at too. Year 10 is an important EHCP phase transfer review as it is when post 16 provision is named.
The following information I have written from my experience with a SENDIASS information session. A lot more was said and the below many not be an accurate account. It is however, correct to the best of my belief, and I wished to share what I discovered with people who were unable to attend. Please ensure you are fully informed before making decisions relating to your child or young person’s EHCP.
Considering Post 16 with an EHCP
Did you know that at Post-16 there is no legal obligation to provide an education in the UK! Also that in Year 9 there is a legal requirement to incorporate a discussion about preparation to adulthood. That the phase transfer review for post 16 is ideally done in the middle of year 10. That ideally you want it to take place before the November in year 11.
Section I of the EHCP
Section I is where the name of the school or other institution to be attended by the young person is named. It will be where the needs in the EHCP can be met. So in order to get the place that you believe is best suited for your child then it needs to be proved that other places cannot meet need as set out in the EHCP. For post 16 this should be in place on the final EHCP by March 31st of Year 11.
Unfortunately it appears there are some common problems – such as:
not knowing which setting the young person will attend (why the process needs to be started in Year 10 ideally)
the new setting not offering what the young person needs (again ensuring research and that it is in the EHCP)
problems with transport not being sorted (making sure it is known how they will get there, it will not automatically be sorted)
assuming that they would be able to move up to post 16 in their current setting (especially in a special school)
being told that they would not get a special post 16 setting as they are currently in mainstream (obviously not true)
settings refusing the child based on academic grades. They can’t once they’ve been named in I without a really good reason)
What this Means as a Parent
You need to be proactive. This means making sure the EHCP is watertight; finding evidence to support that provision is or isn’t suitable in terms of meeting their needs. It also means discovering what options are available.
Post 16 Options
Some schools/institutions are better than others at informing parents but it cannot be left to them. You may find that there are “What’s Next?” meetings. Ask around and see if anywhere local offers support, or if there are other parents you could ask.
If there are places that you want, or even ones you definitely don’t, invite them to the Year 10 EHCP Phase Transfer Review – to either help ensure they are able to meet the young person’s needs, or put them off if you do not want them.
Problems with the EHCP Annual Review
Annual reviews can end up being a bit of a time for a catch up, as opposed to ensuring that the EHCP is up to date. They are usually time limited and a lot of time can be wasted. Or parents may feel overwhelmed, uncomfortable or rushed for time. They may be told that there is plenty of time to discuss things or what usually happens for a child with an EHCP in that setting.
But each EHCP is individual and you need to start getting things in place to ensure that the needs are recorded for the right provision. The latter of which can still be changed with further annual reviews (including an emergency one whilst at post 16 if the young person changes their mind).
Tackling the EHCP Annual Review
The really important sections to discuss are B, E and F. In fact Section A (which is about the views, interests and aspirations of the young person and their parents) can actually be left and added in at a later date. Make sure they are just the needs – writing any problems you feel have not been dealt with in a separate note.
Section B of the EHCP is the young person’s special educational needs. All of them should be set out here. If they are set out in B then provision must be provided in F. The LEA must ensure provision is made for everything in F. This needs to be what their barriers are to education. This should not state who reported/said anything just stating facts.
If needs be ask for their needs to be reassessed – like from an educational psychologist if it has been a while. Even if it is unlikely that they will provide this. If they have been discharged from services, such as Teaching Advisory, they can be asked for a report or letter to support the young person in their phase transfer review.
Section E is the outcomes for the young person. Here you need to think about the targets for the next step. All current provision should be specified and quantified in this section.
Is there anything else you feel a parent or carer needs to know about the Phase Transfer Review moving onto Post 16? What have your experiences been like?
AD Wicked Uncle have asked me to write this post so that you are aware that they have great Sensory Gift Ideas. Catering for those with additional sensory needs. I have been financially compensated however all opinions are honest and my own.
The Sensory Seeker is a Teenager!
Can you believe that The Sensory Seeker himself is now a teenager! For his 13th birthday he actually opted for a night away at Thorpe Park with his dad. This was perfect for him as he got to go on all the big roller-coasters. With his oldest brother being 25, you could say we have had a lot of birthdays to cover for boys. Therefore, we know what makes great sensory gift ideas. I truly believe that Wicked Uncle is a great place to look.
What to Buy a Teenager with Sensory Processing Disorder
Now you may Google “what to buy an autistic?” or “sensory gift ideas” and come up with a whole load of websites showing some fantastic sensory products but honestly children with sensory processing disorder are still just children.
We have found that generally they like what other children do. Sometimes they want what their peers have in an attempt to try to fit in more. Our boys have been like any other when it comes to birthdays – wanting the latest computer games, or in-thing, even trying to like football when really it hasn’t been their thing.
You need to think outside the box about whether it is something that is helping their sensory needs too. For example The Sensory Seeker loves his Oculus Quest 2, a virtual reality headset. This helps him with his visual and movement needs. But of course this is a hugely popular product in his peer group!
Why Shop with Wicked Uncle
Wicked Uncle is a great website for discovering some great gift ideas for all children, whether they have additional sensory needs or not. But additionally Wicked Uncle have a section of sensory products! Also, it can be easier to find your child the ideal gift if they have a special interest – and Wicked Uncle cater for some of those too!
Wicked Uncle Sensory Products
The Wicked Uncle Sensory Toys and Presents section covers a multitude of different colour-changing, noisy or tactile gifts. For teenagers like the Sensory Seeker there are products such as the mini erupting volcano mood light; the Disco 360 Ice – LED lightshow and luxury bath sets for example.
As with all of the sections on the Wicked Uncle website, you can sort the sensory gift ideas by ages (not just the whole website) – 0-3, 4-7, 8-11 and 12+ but not, unfortunately, by sensory need (ie the vision, tactile, smell, etc). Hopefully they may look into this in the future. You can also look high to low, and low to high on price – great if you are looking for an idea if you are invited to a party where the birthday person has sensory needs.
Sensory Popular Products at Wicked Uncle
As I say, however, our boys have been just like any other and would have wanted gift ideas that are popular. Wicked Uncle have many gift ideas in the popular filter which would be perfect for addressing sensory needs.
They aren’t actually in the sensory section as if you aren’t a parent of a child with sensory processing difficulties you may not think about senses other than sight, sounds and touch. For example, good movement birthday ideas on Wicked Uncle include the top seller Upside Down Challenge, Flying Bee, Smart ball and a Giant Piano dance mat.
Special Interest Gift Ideas from Wicked Uncle
Wicked Uncle also sort their gift by product type – which means there is a small number of special interests covered. These include those who are into football, dinosaurs, engineering, unicorns, food, fashion and spooks and spells.
Other Related Posts you may be interested in:
You may also recall that I have previously written about what best to buy women with Asperger’s Syndrome for Christmas and I think you will find it helpful as a starting base when you consider what they really might like. It was put together from the opinions of many women who are Autistic.
The Sensory Seeker has returned to school after two and a half years of home education. We are still in the middle of a pandemic with many people now choosing to home educate their children with special needs. However, The Sensory Seeker really wanted to go back – this is how the first part week has gone from the perspective of his mother.
The Sensory Seeker and Home Education
To be honest The Sensory Seeker never wanted to leave school and if it wasn’t for his brother he never would have. We had previously made the mistake of moving one child from an educational setting and leaving the other one there. Let’s say that the “adults” didn’t act very grown-up about it! We also discovered that the school weren’t seen to be looking after children with EHCPs very well.
The school had told us he was doing well and was pretty much in-line with his peer group. They said that he didn’t want any help as he wanted to work independently. Then of course there was their attitude that “we are all on the sensory spectrum”. Therefore it came as rather a shock to find that he was not in-line with his peer group in math and English (the subjects they claimed he was) and that he seemed unable to work independently. In fact we were told by tutors that he was broken! His confidence was super low and that they hated to think how badly damaged he would have been if we had not opted to home educate. He was not at all receptive to learning at all.
The Sensory Seeker Returning to School
The return to school happened as he is now old enough for secondary education – which is a big change for everyone. In fact the pandemic probably made The Sensory Seeker’s adjustment easier because other children hadn’t been to school in a while. Plus a lot of the lessons are in the one classroom.
He has been back a few days now and it feels very right. The Sensory Seeker is full of confidence and enthusiasm. He has made new friends and isn’t afraid to be himself. If he doesn’t know the answer to something, or wants help, he has been able to easily ask the teaching assistants. Luckily homework is put on an app so we can easily see what needs doing. He has already willingly just got on with homework set when he has got home. He wants to try new things and hasn’t feared the change (like accessing a hot meal from the canteen at lunchtime).
Sensory Issues at Secondary School
Of course he still has sensory issues at school but seems to be just dealing with them by himself. The ones he has mentioned mostly have related to clothing so far. Having to do his top button up, the tie tickling him when he has to tuck it in inside his shirt (he finds tucking it in lower down helps), his rugby shirt is itchy (he is going to try wearing his skins next time to see if that helps). Also his lunch has been all over his clothes so I have to keep cleaning his blazer and tie – but he hasn’t told me that anyone has been mean about it at all.
The School itself
Overall I am really happy with his first week (well he started Tuesday) at school. I have heard a lot of parents praise the SENCO, and she has got a very good reputation. But also the history teacher stopped us one morning to check all was okay. Then a teaching assistant did too – all just whilst we were walking down to queue to get into the school. Fingers crossed this all continues. As a bonus he is learning Spanish which he has already started as part of home education.
The grammar school entrance exam, or eleven plus as it is also known by, is difficult for any child. Our son has been home educated for a year and a term before taking the eleven plus, and also has an EHCP for his additional needs. Despite not feeling that the test was right for him here is why we let him take it.
Special Needs and the Eleven Plus
Quite simply, despite his special needs The Sensory Seeker
wanted to take the eleven plus. He wanted to prove that he could do it (he was
in the school for four hours) and have the same opportunity to go to the
grammar schools that his three brothers did before him. He also wanted his
special day – as we reward the hard work with special treats on that day. He
wanted to earn his reward like his brothers – and not just been given them.
SEN Help with the Eleven Plus
To have extra help in our area you have to provide the school where you wish them to sit the test any additional evidence as to why and what help that should be provided for them to make it a fair test. I seem to recall the turnaround was pretty tight with applying and submitting this. We waited until we had what we needed to hand in straight away. In our case it was a full copy of his EHCP and a letter from Explore Learning just further stating why they believed he required a smaller room and extra time. They awarded him 25% extra time (whether he got it or not we do not know) and a room with just the other children who needed extra time. This actually meant that they were probably the children most likely to cause a disturbance though to be fair, and there was a boy upset and kept messing with his zip.
The Run up to the Eleven Plus
We paid for him to sit one mock exam to give him a feel of
what the eleven plus exam would be like. We only did one because it would be
different from him – as the mocks have more children and wouldn’t give the
extra time, or know about his needs. The emphasis about the eleven plus was
mainly focused on the special day. Tests he really fluctuated between getting
25% on tests to getting high eighties! It really has been an emotional roller
The one thing we have focused on is how proud we are that he
has wanted to give it a go – an important lesson for life. Plus it has meant
that he has worked towards something in a group (he went to sessions at Explore
Learning), it means he has had taken exams, and learned to be under exam
The Day of the Eleven Plus
I was a bit confused because the drop off and pick up times
were the same as all the other children – meaning he either didn’t have his
extra time or they had cut short his break. If really needs be I guess this could
be grounds for appeal. I doubt very much we will be appealing.
He went in happy and he came out happy – and that’s all that really matters. Children were allocated colours and his colour was clearly an indicator of his needs and at drop off and pick up the fact that he was this colour seem to be of high importance, so I felt that he had been well looked after. He felt it went well, but then say he answered things in the wrong section. He was so proud of himself saying, “see I told you I could do it!”
Then we had his special day. He had been awake since 4am on
the morning of the test and I am surprised that he managed to stay awake until
2am the following day when the decision was made for him to go to bed. We are
quite strict on bedtimes and so this was very late indeed for him to stay up as
a treat. We had bought him the LEGO he had asked for because he wanted to build
it with me and took him out for dinner and desert the places he wanted to go.
Plus he generally just played computer games outside of the hours we normally
The Eleven Plus Results
We now have just under a month to wait for the results but I have heard of another school that sounds much more suitable for him, in my opinion. I am going to see if we can look around and convince him that the grammar school he wants to go isn’t his only choice. The wait for the results is less than 4 weeks too – so we shall see.
Getting your period for the first time can be confusing for any girl never mind one who is Autistic or has Sensory Processing Disorder. With sensory integration problems it may take longer to absorb the physical and emotional changes in the body, which can usually happen anywhere between the ages of 9 and 16 years old, so it is best to start the discussion early – possibly with the use of social stories and visual aids. You could also use PEC’s on a keyring as a visual reminder.
with Periods for Autistic Females or those who have Sensory Processing Disorder
Communication and Emotions
As well as difficulties processing all the changes those who are Autistic or have Sensory Issue many struggle with communicating. This can be a difficult time especially if she finds it hard to regulate her hormones. A good way to help with this is to discuss what a period is and why we have them – this may start with an introduction in a physical way of this extra hole that they may not have noticed before, as it hasn’t been relevant.
Talk about the menstrual cycle, explaining that it happens to all women. Plot on a calendar the different stages (menstruating/ovulation) this will help her to keep track of when her period is due. Make sure you include the fact that they may have increased discharge on the lead up to their periods, and then on days in-between periods. Not only talk about how long the average length of a period will last each month, how much blood may be lost, and also how long she is likely to have periods in her life. It may seem strange to introduce the menopause before the first period but it might help them to have an idea of the time frame that this will happen over.
Talk about the different types of sanitary products and demonstrate how to use those them (like where to put the towel in a pair of knickers). Talk about how many of each type they might need (like only one cup or x amount of pads a day). Some disposable pads have arrows on them so this may help you decide on a preferable brand. You may or may not want to show her what used sanitary protection looks like – as not to shock her (but explain that people do not usually go around showing this!). Alternatively you could use food colouring. Either way explain that there may be blood clots – or that the blood can be either red or brown. They also need to be aware that blood slows down in water (so it is okay to get into the bath) but that when they get out it may come back suddenly so they may need a sanitary product straight away. Also that tampons can be worn in water (if they want to go swimming for example) but may change how they feel (heavy) and need changing when they get out too. Explain that the flow of blood changes too so there might be more or less at different times – throughout the cycle and throughout the day/night – with more coming at night so extra protection may be required.
Once she has had her first period you could get her to write a diary to help identify how she feels at various parts of each month – warning her previously what this may look or feel like. It may be that the days leading up to her period she feels more angry/upset/sad/frustrated but that this stops when her period starts. This will help her understand how things are for her because not everyone is the same – and that’s okay too.
It may be that she has trouble concentrating, feels depressed or sleepy; has sore breasts, stomach or lower back, she may be more hungry, feel bloated, need to go to the toilet more, and does not know how to express this – or realise why it is happening. If it is explained what this may be like for her, including how this may look and feel, and that these things are normal it will be less frightening for her. Such as that cramping may feel like an uncomfortable or sick tummy; there may be some tightness around the abdomen, or mild pain like a headache feels (I was told by a doctor that this was just migraine of the stomach for years on the build up to my periods). Others may describe cramping like bubble or gas. Offer her ways to deal with them – such as hot water bottles, paracetamol and even chocolate!
Throughout everything you discuss make sure she knows it is normal and just a part of growing up. You may want to explain periods as a rite of passage into adulthood – and even allow her to do something a little more grown up to compensate for them (such as having extra chocolate, having a later bedtime and so on).
Sensory Difficulties and Periods
Of course there may be new sensory difficulties which arise due to her periods. It may be that she cannot cope with the feel of discharge or blood, or the sensation of a pad in her knickers/tampon inside her. This could lead on to poor hygiene, especially if this is already a problem. You need to explore all the many types of products available (towels/tampons/menstrual cups/reusable pads/reusable knickers) to discover if there’s a particular one they are more comfortable with (you could donate surplus products that did not work out for her to a homeless charity perhaps). It may be that the different products have varying smells – therefore it may be a case that reusable pads would be the best option as you could wash them with the regular laundry detergent that they are used to. They may want to use toilet wipes or a flannel for cleaning themselves after they have been to the toilet if they cannot deal with the blood.
Explain that without using them that the blood could leak through their clothes and make them uncomfortable. That if they suffer with heavy blood loss that this could still happen and it may be an idea to carry around spare knickers and sanitary products with them. But also make them aware of how and where to buy products themselves. It may be that it is the visual sight of blood and so dark sanitary pants may be the only solution.
Together you could make a “monthlies” box for the bathroom with all the things she needs. Or order a subscription box for her.
general is a time when personal hygiene needs addressing and it may be that
they struggle with the odours that come with periods. Again which type of
sanitary products they use may help with this, as well as the right kind of
spray to mask the smell.
It may seem obvious but she needs to be made aware of the importance of washing her hands after changing her sanitary wear and of course they also need to know when and how to change and the correct method of disposing (including how to wrap up disposable pads and place them in the bins provided and what they can do if there aren’t any available) or cleaning their sanitary products – and that they are not flushed down the toilet. Talk about the frequency because this could be the fullness or the time – even if a pad has not got a lot of blood on it it needs changing frequently, or it will start to smell.
If reusable products are being used that they know where to put them when they have finished with them (maybe have a wet bag that they can carry around and a wet bucket in the bathroom). But be prepared that they still will hide them – you just need to make sure this situation is as least embarrassing as possible. Or maybe even teach her how to do her own washing, with her own wash hamper (obviously depending on her age) so that she does not worry what others think (and depending on her capabilities). Plus advice on rinsing them or how to treat stains.
Obviously talking about how we take care of sanitary products after they are used are part of the social rules of our society – so you may want to explain this as a reason why as well as for hygiene reasons. But also mention about the vocabulary we use when talking about periods – plus how there is a time and place to talk about menstruation but that there are boundaries and appropriate social etiquette.
That all females have most likely had periods at some point in their lives and it is nothing to be ashamed about. A lot of us have been caught short with unexpectedly “coming on” and not had the right products to deal with it. In this case for a short while some tissue paper may help, or some toilets sell products in machines – or another female can be asked if she has anything that could be “borrowed” (this is the term used but they do not actually want it back!)
This will also include getting the
attention of a member of staff if at school or college to help deal with any
issues. If this may be the case it may be worth speaking to the school and see
if they will help support them.
Of course if you have any further issues then do visit the GP, especially if her periods are very long in duration or heavy, or painful.
Social Story Images from Lil-Barb’s Delights used with permission. They were designed for a particular person with their own criteria. Some girls will be offended/upset by some of the content – or you may wish to use different products.
Thank you for everyone who helped contribute to this article, including the above recommendations.
The above is just my opinions and is not meant to substitute medical advice
Alton Towers Waterpark is situated inside the Splash Landings Hotel and is lots of fun for all the family. We received a discount on entry using our Merlin Annual Passes (for which we are brand ambassadors).
Things to Know About Alton Towers Waterpark
Access to Alton Towers Waterpark
Alton Towers Waterpark is easy to find (with clear sign posts) and is located in the Splash Landings Hotel. The normal way to access the Alton Towers Waterpark is down some stairs. I assume there is lift access but it wasn’t obvious to me, but then again I wasn’t looking.
Parking at Alton Towers Waterpark
Personally I would have found it really difficult to park the car at Alton Towers Waterpark as the car park was very full. We went when it was out of season and the main park only open to special guests. I am not sure if this made for the waterpark and hotel being busier but I am just glad it was my husband driving.
Disabilities and Entrance to Alton Towers Waterpark
There’s lots of fun water decorations as soon as you step inside the building and throughout the journey to the Waterpark, making it a great sensory experience from the off (for sensory seekers).It did turn out that we could have also had free entry into Alton Tower’s Waterpark for a carer with proof of disability/DWP letter or Blue Badge – this was not clear on the website and so I paid for all of us in case the Waterpark was full to capacity.
Disabled customers who can walk unaided but receive the higher rate DWP or have a blue badge are able to receive a Wristband which allows 4 rides on the Masterblaster slide without queuing. This did not apply to us so I am unsure at this point how this works. This can be for either single or double rings.
Parking is free. Again I am sure there is parking for those with a blue badge closer to the entrance of Alton Towers Waterpark which may be easier to park but this did not apply to us and I am afraid I did not notice.
Entrance Requirements for Alton Towers Waterpark
Under 10s must be accompanied by an adult; Children ages 5-9 years old have a 2:1 adult ration; and each under 5 needs their own adult.
Alton Towers Waterpark is open 10am-6pm – you may be asked to attend a certain time slot at busy times.
Only swimwear can be worn in the Cariba Creek.
You can go in and out of the Waterpark multiple times by having a hand stamp on exit.
The Facilities at Alton Towers Waterpark
Alton Towers Waterpark has three slides which require the use of a ring – The Masterblaster (riders over 1.2m can ride on their own and those between 1.1 and 1.2m can ride on a double) – this is fast and goes dark in sections; Rush (which is meant to have a choice of lights and sounds but was just dark when we went) and Rampage – both of which are high speed slides and has an age restriction of 3 years old, with riders under 1.1m requiring an adult). Riders are not allowed to bring their own rings and Masterblaster has a different coloured ring to Rush and Rampage. You must queue for a ring and then queue again to use the slides.
Flash Floods is the outdoor flume adventures at Alton Towers Waterpark. Two slides end up in a pool in the middle and then a choice of a further 3 slides taking you into another outdoor pool.
Also available are Lagoona Bay with a waterfall and a place for a gentle swim; the Bubbly Wubbly Pool and Volcano Springs to soothe you; Wacky Waterworks with over 70 interactive water features – with water cannons, buckets, pull ropes and water wheels.
The Changing Rooms atAlton Towers Waterpark
Changing rooms are unisex with various size cubicles to meet the needs of different sized families. Hair dryers are free of charge – and there is even lower down ones for children. Both adult and children’s hair dryers face a mirror. There are toilets located both outside of the entrance gate and within the changing rooms. Lockers take a refundable 20p piece – we managed to fit our belongings for 5 of us in 2 lockers including our towels. There are plenty of places to hang towels on hooks around the waterpark however.
There are disabled changing and shower facilities, with assistance available if required.
EatingatAlton Towers Waterpark
Inside of Alton Towers Waterpark is a café where you can buy food/drink in your swimwear. This included hot and cold food ideas, with meal deal options. You can eat around the waterpark and there are benches provided, as well as seating being provided in the café itself. You can also leave the Waterpark and return later. This allows you the option to go completely off-site from Alton Towers Resort or eat at Flambo’s Exotic Feast (all you can eat Pizza and Pasta restaurant) near the entrance to the Waterpark itself. You cannot bring and eat your own food however.
Other Things to Know about Alton Towers Waterpark
Other things you may wish to know about the Alton Towers Waterpark are:
That you can take photos inside the waterpark, but are asked to only do so for members of your own family/party.
Buoyancy jackets are available from the help desk.
There is also an arcade which you pass on the way in and out.
There are CCTV cameras in operation.
Baby feeding and changing facilities are available.
There is no running, diving or shoes are allowed inside Alton Towers Waterpark.
Thoughts on Alton Towers Waterpark
Alton Towers Waterpark is great for a family of a variety of ages (as long as you have the correct ratios). There is plenty to do so you do not have to just be queuing for the slides – again suitable for all different ages. There is a lot of sensory stimulation including lights, colours and sounds. This is great for a sensory seeker but there doesn’t seem very much for a sensory avoider, and this would be less so if the Flash Floods were closed. At least there is the option of going out and back in to the Waterpark – but the immediate area is also quite a sensory experience, especially as you have to pass the arcade.
I personally felt really overwhelmed (I am self-diagnosed with Asperger’s Syndrome) on entering Alton Towers Waterpark and couldn’t clearly see what I was meant to do. For me it wasn’t clear which slides did what (ie were they tight, dark, fast etc) or where to go to collect the rings for the right slides. There are some sort of signs but it just felt a little confusing (I actually ended up on my own crying). However, there are plenty of members of staff around to ask for advice – and one even asked me if I were okay and if I knew where I was going. I am expecting that Alton Towers will be providing their staff with training on this following the launch of the new guide for welcoming disabled customers.
Value for Money at Alton Towers Waterpark
I think that with our Merlin Annual Pass Discount, and a family rate, then Alton Towers Waterpark is reasonably priced and in-line with other Waterparks we have visited. There is also good value for money on the amount of entertainment. However, for our family of thrill-seekers (who are now all over 1.4m) there weren’t that many thrills in terms of exciting slides (with only 3 to really talk about at all). It is good that there was no rush for us to leave – as we were able to use the facilities between 10am-6pm coming and going as we pleased. We also found that the queues weren’t too unmanageable, even for The Sensory Seeker.
We spent a total of 150 minutes in total at Alton Towers Waterpark, including getting dressed and undressed. Then we spent further time at Flambo’s Exotic Feast – where we were thrilled to discover there is ice-cream!
Have you ever not used a business because you just couldn’t access them? Or had to leave early because your needs couldn’t be met? Worst still have you ever left somewhere or refused to spend money with someone because of their poor customer service in regards your needs? I am sure it will come as no surprise to you that you are not alone. But hopefully times are changing – such as with the launch of comprehensive guidance to help UK businesses deliver inclusive customer service by meeting the need of disabled customers by The Business Disability Forum. Yesterday we went along to the launch to find out more about it.
Why a Disabled Customers Guide is Needed
Diane Lightfoot, Chief Executive of The Business Disability Forum, explained how 1 in 5 customers has a disability or long-term condition. With 90% of disabilities not being immediately visible. A survey of 2,500 customers it was found that three quarters left where they were due to the poor understanding of their disability. That 1.8 billion pounds were lost per month from businesses not getting it right. I heard of how employees were hiding from people with disabilities out of fear – not knowing the right thing to say or do.
What the Welcoming Disabled Customers Guide Covers
Sponsored by Merlin Entertainments and launched at the LEGOLAND® Windsor Resort on the 7th March 2019, the Welcoming Disabled Customers Guide offers advice to businesses on how to ensure all customers receive the very best level of customer service. The practical resource provides customer and client facing staff with relevant information on understanding and meeting the needs and preferences of customers with different conditions and disabilities: This includes training employees about language etiquette and thinking about differences within the same disability – as well as practical adjustments with access issues and how to make adjustments. It also includes general pointers on providing good customer service and harnessing the £249 billion spending power of disabled customers and clients. In addition, the fully revised guide includes new quick reference sections (Quick Tips), updated advice on assistive communication, additional facts sections and new multiple-choice questions to help the reader to recap on their learning.
Many different types of businesses are going to be using the Welcoming Disabled Customers Guide and access the Business Disability Forum for further help and information. This is an ongoing process whilst feedback is listened to and tweaks made to make sure that everyone can gain access to as much as possible.
Merlin Entertainments and the Welcoming Disabled Customers Guide
Merlin Entertainments were one of the first businesses that I heard of that could help us meet the needs of our son with Asperger’s Syndrome. First with the way they handled his experience at LEGOLAND Windsor Resort all those years ago (probably about 15 years ago) and to be able to access days out when money was tight with Merlin’s Magic Wand.
Merlin are committed to continuously improving the accessibility of their attractions and are trying to take every reasonable step to make the necessary adjustments for all their guests to enjoy a great day out. It was great to hear about the modifications to their attractions to make them more inclusive – including changes already made, things they are trialing/future changes.
This includes great customer service, and the Welcoming Disabled Customers Guide will certainly help all their teams have the confidence to interact and create great memorable experiences for guests of all abilities. Whilst also utilising Ways into Work – employing disabled and disadvantaged individuals.
Disabilities and LEGOLAND Windsor Resort
LEGOLAND Windsor Resort has a new Total Sensory Room, Changing Places Toilet and hoist which were opened last year. The best thing about the accessible toilets are that they are inclusive – in that they are next to, and decorated like, all the other toilets. The LEGOLAND Windsor Resort hotel has accessible rooms for each theme – including hoists, open plan rooms, low baths and wet rooms. This year inside the park sees the addition of mobility scooter hire, plus the Ride Access Pass and Disability Guide have been reviewed.
Welcoming Disabled Customers Guide and Sensory Processing Disorder
The Welcoming Disabled Customers Guide is clear in that every customer should be treated as an individual – with no assumptions being made. That the best thing to do is to ask how you can help and what they need to help them access what you are offering – and this applies to every disability (and those who do not consider that their access needs make them disabled). However, sensory issues are also addressed under the heading of Autism and Asperger’s Syndrome. I would have liked to see Sensory Processing Disorder as an extra title for this section, and that it only covers people who are overwhelmed by bright lights, loud noises etc – and not those who are underwhelmed. One look at The Sensory Room at LEGOLAND Windsor Resort shows that they are aware of this need, however, and places are doing things to help everyone.
The Business Disability Forum is a not-for-profit membership organisation and has worked in collaboration with businesses, disability organisations and people with conditions covered in the guide, and with support from Merlin Entertainments plc.
I was invited to the launch of Welcoming Disabled Customers Guide at LEGOLAND Windsor Resort. My two youngest children and I were able to use the pool, and the boys were very kindly given LEGO Goody bags. Opinions are honest and my own – but honestly there was a man who also went to the event who just wanted to cry as he was so pleased that someone just “got it.” Mostly that there were not only hoists, and things to allow his child access – but that they weren’t just medical – and were fun and appealing to any child.
Mousetrap Theatre Projects are running their Relaxed Performance of Motown the Musical on January 22nd 2019 at 6.30pm at the Shaftesbury Theatre. In a time of unimaginable change, a man with an unstoppable dream invented a sound that would be remembered forever. With just $800 borrowed from his family, Berry Gordy founded Motown records and launched the careers of Diana Ross and the Supremes, Michael Jackson and the Jackson 5, Stevie Wonder, Smokey Robinson and the Miracles, Marvin Gaye, The Temptations and many more.
The show is full of over 50 Motown classics such as “My Girl”, ‘Dancing in the Street’ and ‘Ain’t no Mountain High Enough’” and “I Heard It Through The Grapevine”. So expect lots of singing, dancing and overall a fantastically fun evening out for the entire family.Relaxed Performances are designed to provide an opportunity for young people with autism, learning difficulties or other sensory and communication needs who require a more relaxed environment.
Normal rules of theatre going do not apply, such as having to keep quiet or sit still. The aim is to offer a supportive, understanding and welcoming atmosphere for all. This means it can get a bit noisy inside the auditorium. If you find that the environment of the theatre becomes overwhelming, there are special arrangements in place to make your theatre experience as enjoyable as possible.
A Relaxed Performances involves:
Adjustments to sound and lighting
Free support resources to help families prepare for their theatre visit
Trained volunteers and staff to help at the event
Chill out zones within the theatre if you need to leave the auditorium
A relaxed and fun environment to enjoy the theatre as a family
Tickets are still available in Band A (Adult £20 Child £10; Front of Stalls & Front of Dress Circle), B (Adult £12 Child £6; Back of Stalls and Back of Dress Circle) and C (Adults £6 Child £3; Grand Circle – Please note that the Grand Circle may not be suitable for those with mobility difficulties or a fear of heights. There are at least 34 steps to this level and it is quite steep. Please do not apply for these seats if they are not suitable for your family), there is still a chance to attend what is positive to be an amazing evening of theatre. Unfortunately there is no longer have any wheelchair spaces available.At least one member of the family must be a young person with additional needs aged between the ages 8-25. Strictly one application per family, maximum 6 people per application. Please contact me at firstname.lastname@example.org if you wish to receive details of how to apply. Tickets are allocated on a first-come, first-served basis, and are subject to availability.
Further resources to support your visit to see Motown the Musical will be provided soon. Resources in previous years have included an SEN resource pack, a guide to the performance and venue, a story board and a visual story. They will also be offering special pre-show workshops.