Creating positive experiences for individuals with autism
Autism Spectrum Disorder (ASD) is a developmental disability that impacts more than 1 in 100 people in the UK.
By raising awareness and encouraging people to learn more about autism, we can help create a society that is more inclusive and accessible for everyone, providing experiences for all to enjoy.
As April is National Autism Awareness Month, we wanted to share why it is so important for places to be autism-friendly, as well as highlight some of the places championing inclusivity by offering ASD-friendly experiences and days out in the Midlands right now.
Why it is so important for places to be autism-friendly?
1) Sensory Processing
People on the autism spectrum can often have hypersensitivity to sensory stimuli where loud noises, strong smells, and flashing images can cause anxiety and physical pain. Removing these obstacles can massively build an individual’s confidence and overall positivity. This may have further positive impacts in the future where they feel more comfortable trying new things.
2) Crucial for well-being
Activities and attractions offering autism-friendly events helps to eliminate anxiety and dread over day-to-day things, such as going to the supermarket or the cinema. It also allows for crucial socialisation which can have a massive positive impact on mental well-being.
3) Promotes Awareness
Holding autism-friendly events allows staff members to be taught how to deal with certain situations and spread an understanding this way. They also help to create an understanding for visitors seeing the advertisements, who might be unaware about autism and what it means for an individual.
What can places do to be more autism-friendly?
1) Sensory Maps
Having maps for the senses, such as a map of lighting, touch, and sound, can mean the difference between an anxious and distressing experience, and a calm and confidence-building one.
It allows people to prepare for changing sensory experiences, breeding a sense of confidence within an unfamiliar and alienating space. It is an extremely simple idea, yet it has the potential to make a massive difference to the community!
2) Specific Quiet Times/Having a Quiet Room
Having specific quiet times or a designated “quiet room” can provide a safe space for guests. This provides reassurance and creates a more pleasurable experience for people with autism.
3) Create an inclusive and supportive environment
Having support at events can be crucial to provide a sense of familiarity and calm on days out. Training staff at events is very important so that they know how to deal with situations constructively and helpfully. Allowing carers to accompany people with autism can also be crucial.
Autism-friendly activities in Birmingham/Midlands
One Sunday each month, ODEON hosts an autism-friendly film screening.
This includes keeping the house lights on throughout the showing, with lower audio volume to reduce any sensory overload. They remove the preceding advertisements and trailers for this reason also.
The cinema doors are also opened earlier than usual to allow guests to explore and familiarise themselves with the venue ahead of the screening.
The Birmingham Hippodrome offers relaxed performances designed for people with autism, learning difficulties, and other sensory and communication disorders. They offer more freedoms such as walking in and out of the auditorium during performances as well as being allowed to make noise throughout the performance.
It is also SEN friendly, offering adapted staging, maybe a simpler version of the script, raised house lights, and bright lights and loud noises removed. There is also a nearby calm space in cases of distress or unease with beanbags, sensory toys, and bubble lights.
All front-of-house staff are also trained in advance of all relaxed performances.
Rush Trampoline Park offers a great opportunity for people to explore the joys of trampolining in a more relaxed and accessible way.
These sessions include a capped capacity, no music, and reduced lighting to avoid any glare. Carers are also welcome to accompany visitors into the arena free of charge.
On selected dates, the National SeaLife Centre offers a ‘quiet’ experience before regular opening times. This is aimed at creating an SEN-friendly experience that is quieter and more relaxed than usual, involving switching off the centre music and turning televisions down to minimal volume.
Here at Lisieux Trust, we believe in empowering and supporting adults with learning disabilities and adults on the autism spectrum.
Our goal is to create independence and opportunities for our community to create awareness. Whether that’s within our provided care and accommodation or through our work.