Autism Unravelled - Guide to Half Term

For children with autism, holidays can be confusing and difficult to deal with. This

does not have to spell disaster though, and with planning and support we hope

you can enjoy a fun filled half term.

Children, young people and adults with autism need a certain level of structure

and routine. During the term time, routine is easier to maintain. However, when

the holidays arrive, children with autism can get confused as to why they are not

getting up at a certain time or going to school.

Parents and carers - you’ve totally got this! Remember the value of visual

timetables, first and then strategies and using timers for countdowns. Just take

big breathers and don’t sweat the small stuff.

SO HOW CAN YOU MAKE THE CHANGES IN ROUTINE EASIER FOR YOUR CHILD?

Many people on the autism spectrum are strong visual learners so using pictures

on the calendar (either drawings or photos) will help to reinforce the information

for your child. Make use of a daily visual calendar to help your child understand

that it is the school holidays and there is no school. Putting up a visual timetable

somewhere prominent so they can refer to it and so know what is expected of

them during the day. The daily routine can be built around meal times, bedtime

and play times. Visual timetables are also good because, if planned activities do

need to change, you can visually show things changing, by replacing one activity

with another

PREPARATION IS KEY TO A HAPPY HALF TERM

Because autistic people can find change difficult, this can sometimes lead to high

anxiety, meltdowns or challenging behaviour. Helping prepare your child for

changes to their routine will help reduce their fears. Here are some things you

could try:

 Use visual supports, such as photos, to help your child to remember where

they are going and what it will look like when they get there.

 Prepare a visual timetable in advance, taking into consideration

any obsessions, repetitive behaviour or routines that person has.

 Think about what situations they may need to understand (such as delays

or unavoidable changes to travel plans) and how you can use social stories to

help them prepare. You may find it easier to use a social story creator. Use

preparatory social stories to help your child understand where they are going

what they might see and do there

 Prepare for possible sensory difficulties – the more the person knows about

the environment they are going to the better. For example explaining that light

may be slightly lower in museums can mean it does not come as a shock.

See if the venue you are going to can offer a ‘quiet’ space to go to if needed.

IDEAS FOR THINGS TO DO AT HALF TERM IN AND

AROUND LONDON

Choosing the best places to take an autistic child?

Activities and day trips are a great way to entertain your children, but there can

be a lot of planning involved. Choosing a place to take your children is dependent

on their individual needs – there are no right or wrong places to visit.

Children, young people and adults with autism often have an intense and

passionate level of focus on things of interest; which is often called a special-

interest area. Every child is different, so paying attention to what your child likes

and dislikes will make your life and your child’s life easier when it comes to

choosing a day trip.

It is important to note that the special interests are highly important and

meaningful to people with autism, like an intense hobby.

Finding half term activities that link to your child’s area of special interest can be

meaningful and motivating. So whether your child’s special interest is transport,

superheroes or Lego, have fun on the underground, a day trip on the DLR or trip

on the London Eye - we hope you enjoy making memories together.

AUTISM FRIENDLY CINEMA SCREENINGS:

Many local cinemas now offer autism friendly screening family films in a sensory

friendly and inclusive environment during school holidays. For each screening,

adjustments are made which aim to reduce over-stimulation and create a welcoming

atmosphere.

 Auditorium lights are kept at a low level.

 Sound is played at a reduced level.

 No trailers or additions are played before the film.

 There is freedom to move around and sit where you like.

 Availability of a chill out zone close to the cinema.

 Free entry for carers with a valid CEA card.

 Ear defenders can often be requested

 Some cinemas offer social stories which are downloadable from the

booking pages.

LEGOLAND WINDSOR:

Admits full-time carers without charge when accompanying a disabled person.

Visitors should bring evidence of disability with them. You may also be eligible for a

Ride Access Pass. This makes reasonable adjustments for people who struggle with

queuing, due to the nature of their disability.

We recommend visiting the LEGOLAND website before you visit, where you can find

more information about the new system and lots of helpful tips to help plan a great

day out, including this guide and FAQs.

LONDON TRANSPORT MUSEUM IN COVENT GARDEN:

London transport museum, is a great destination for a family day out. 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. The museum can get very busy

during holidays - especially if the weather is poor - so for a quieter time try visiting

10am-11am and then from 4pm-6pm. Family learning workshops take place during

holidays, including story time and craft. There is no specific provision for special

needs although the venue is mobility accessible. Children are free up to the age of

16, and paying adults can use their ticket multiple times over a year.

LONDON MUSEUM:

London’s museums are some of the best in the world and an increasing number are

making experiences more comfortable for people with autism. Kensington institutions

the Natural History Museum and the Science Museum are two such organisations

putting on fantastic events aimed at bringing experiences to life for children. The free

and interactive Dawnasaurs events at the Natural History Museum feature a sensory

room and quiet space for maximum comfort, while the Early Bird and Night Owls

events at the Science Museum allow families to enjoy workshops at off-peak times.

As its half term, museums can get busy so it may be worthwhile downloading a map

of the museum beforehand and planning what area you want to visit. Some

museums may open early or can advise when are the quieter times to visit so it is

worth contacting them when planning a visit.

MUSEUM OF LONDON & MUSEUM OF LONDON DOCKLANDS:

Museum of London and Museum of London Docklands offer Morning Explorers

every few months. Morning Explorers is at 8.30am (normal opening hours are 10am-

6pm), is free and provides an informal atmosphere in which to explore the museum,

sensitive to the needs of children on the autism spectrum under the age of 13.

MUDCHUTE FARM:

The largest city farm in London with over 32 acres of countryside in the middle of the

Isle of Dogs to share with friendly fur and feathered creatures. There are over 200

animals and fowl on the farm! There is plenty of space for families to take their time

and find quiet areas to enjoy. There are often events and opportunities to feed and

pet animals – please see the website for details.

WILLOWS ACTIVITY FARM:

Willows Activity Farm is a Children’s Farm just off junction 22 of the M25. The ticket

price includes all shows, fun fair rides, carousels, inflatables, Tractor Ride, acres of

outdoor and under cover soft play activities plus entry to the Peter Rabbit Adventure

Playground included in the entry price.

TRAMPOLINE PARKS: 

 Oxygen Free Jumping

 Flip Out

 Bounce

 Zap Space

An excellent way to meet sensory needs through bouncing! Often trampoline parks

have autism friendly sessions so do check on line for local information

SWIMMING WATER PARKS:

 Wet n Wild at Waterfront Leisure Centre: Woolwich, Greater London, England

 Leyton Leisure Lagoon: East London

MORE INFORMATION:

The National Autistic Society (NAS) is a valuable source of information, especially

when it comes to planning days out www.autism.org.uk Some local support

groups and play schemes run holiday clubs - you can find out details of any schemes

near you by calling the NAS autism helpline

(0845 070 4004, Mon-Fri, 10am 4pm)

Check out wikiplacesforkids.com/ for loads more information and ideas on different adventures