Visiting Alton Towers With Our Autistic Child

We visited Alton Towers last month for a press event to celebrate the 1st Birthday of the ‘In The Night Garden’s Magical Boat Ride’ in Cbeebies Land. What I didn’t say in that post was that we very almost didn’t go as come the morning of the event I had a total wobble about the idea of taking Dylan. I knew it would be somewhere that would obviously be busy, and I knew it probably wouldn’t be possible that we would be able to stick around to go on any of the rides. Dylan’s days are so unpredictable and we never really know how he will react to the world around him.

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His safety net is often the pram, and he finds it a comfort to have those pram straps around his waist, so we went armed with that and the baby carrier for Charlotte. Dylan coped well with the party atmosphere, and I think he enjoyed himself, we did not know how he would react to the busy room and the characters but as far as we know he liked it and found it all rather interesting. There were crisp (1 of 4 dry foods he will only eat) on the buffet table which kept him fed and happy & a lady came round with some fun bubbles which made his day.

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After the party we headed to Cbeebies Land as we had one very excited six years old who was looking forward to some rides, we started in Mr Tumble’s Something Special Sensory Garden which was something we were looking to after our research about the park. Anywhere we go these days have to be researched in advance so we know what we are facing with Dylan and can think of any solutions to possible problems in advance.

As we approached the rides, Oli became mega excited, but we were dubious about the queues and all the noise coming from it. The Man and I both started to get worked up, and we were caught in the middle of a child who could not wait to go on these rides and another child who could potentially not even cope with the queue let alone the ride once we were on it. For Oli’s sake we gave it a try, the moment we started to get near the queue Dylan began to flap and roll around in his pram. He started to meltdown, and so did we, and it was a case of telling Oli, sorry, but we cannot go on the rides. He was sad, but he knows that we have to be understanding when it comes to his brother.

Heading back to the car we started to consider our options, how one of us could go on the rides with Oli while the other one walks around with Dylan in the pram or we could pay for some fast-track passes and hope that it would be worth it and that Dylan would like the ride.

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Before we had gone, we had looked into the accessibility of the park and how they facilitate those with disabilities. We have the issue with Dylan being undiagnosed; he may receive DLA, he may go to a special needs school, and he may indeed have special needs, but we still have no official label.  There are times I still feel like a fraud using the ‘A’ word when it is not officially ours to claim, and every time I say it out loud to people my heart sinks, but I also feel an instant relief that everything that affects him is summed up in one word. Because of all of this and his age we have not got anything like a statement of special educational needs or blue badge.

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I had our latest paediatrician letter in my bag, this one stating that Dylan ‘probably’ has Autism but needs to be in some a school setting to be officially diagnosed. Armed with this I went to guest services to see what our options were. There was a section where we didn’t have to queue (bonus) and was greeted by a friendly lady who made it easier to try and explain our situation to her. She was amazing; I do not think she quite realised how she made my day/week/year!

She explained to us how we could have access ride passes because they are for children exactly like Dylan who do not understand queues and can easily get distressed by this situation. I stood there in tears as I thanked her for being so understanding and not allowing ‘Autism’ to become an expense or nuisance to our day out.

We attempted the Postman Pat Parcel Post ride to try out Dylan’s ability to cope, he was unsure at first but didn’t put up a  fight or have a meltdown going on it. I think he enjoyed taking in all the things he could see but of course, we can only guess this.

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He did so well and only struggled with a couple of attractions, but we dealt with by instantly getting ourselves away from that situation and distracting him with something else. Aside from the rides, I realised there was so much more we could do that would appeal to Dylan’s senses. He loved watching the fish in the Sharkbait Reef by Sealife Centre, and Nina’s Science Lab left Dylan in Sensory heaven.

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Going on days out now with Autism means having to cater for that before anything else so having somewhere that makes that easier for us is somewhere that we will happily return to do again and again. I am so happy that Oli at 6 was able to experience a day out like any other child his age, that he did not have to resent Dylan in any way for holding him back from having fun. Thank you, Alton Towers.

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