Legoland Discovery Centre Manchester is holding an event specially designed for children with autism this Halloween.
The popular family attraction is working closely alongside Cheshire-based charity, Together Trust, to develop ‘Fun Without Fear’ – an event that is accessible for all, during a festive occasion that can be overwhelming for children with Autism Spectrum Disorder.
Taking place on Halloween (October 31), the session is an opportunity for those in attendance to enjoy all the attraction has to offer, free from the challenges that a visit may usually present.
Between 9 – 10am, Fun Without Fear will see the centre open one hour earlier than usual, with the capacity reduced and all flashing lights and the main music turned off. The attraction asks that visitors refrain from wearing masks, and that any costumes are not considered frightening. Extra members of staff will be available to help with a programme of specially adapted Halloween activities, including pumpkin building and a ‘scarevenger hunt’.
Research shows that, key to putting children with autism at ease is the gradual introduction to new environments. For this reason, Legoland Discovery Centre will provide a social story prior to Halloween celebrations, which comprises of a detailed series of images from inside the centre, so that children can familiarise themselves with the potentially new environment, creating a much less daunting experience on arrival.
Additional measures, many of which may seem small, but are incredibly important, include turning off hand dryers to minimise distress, and the introduction of a quiet room with low sensory lighting and beanbags, for children to take a break if needed. The centre’s Halloween character, A LEGO vampire, will be in a separate room, so that children can choose whether or not they’d like to meet him. Families are also invited to bring their own food, in recognition of the fact that diets can be limited for lots of children.
Jenn McDonough, General Manager Manchester Cluster, Merlin Entertainments, commented: “For many, Halloween is all about dressing up and providing those around us with plenty of spooks and scares, but for children with autism, it can be a really distressing time.
“We’re working with the Together Trust to adapt our facilities to create a Halloween event that’s accessible for all – we want to make sure everyone can enjoy the fun of Halloween, without the fear.”
The introduction of the quiet sessions comes to follow the success of the centre’s involvement in ‘autism hour’, an initiative driven by the National Autistic Society that encourages organisations to take simple steps to be more autism-friendly in the week of October 6 – October 13.
“We already hold regular ‘Quiet in The Aquarium’ events at Sea Life Manchester, and we’ve had a great response from families. Following much demand we’re keen to bring Legoland Discovery Centre on board and make a longer term commitment to ensuring our space is accessible for all”, McDonough added.
Leah Webster, an ambassador for Together Trust, added: “It can be really difficult to plan and attempt to attend a family day out when you have a child or children with additional needs. There are so many concerns, from how they might cope with an unfamiliar environment, to how strangers who may lack awareness and understanding will judge parents and children.
“As a result, it can sometimes feel like it’s better to completely avoid these situations, but it’s so important that all children feel included and have the opportunity to enjoy and experience events like their peers.
“It’s wonderful to see organisations like Legoland Discovery Centre reaching out to Special Educational Needs parents and working closely with us to make small adjustments that will make a huge and positive impact to children’s enjoyment and accessibility.”
Fun Without Fear will mark the first of a series of monthly Autism friendly sessions at Legoland Discovery Centre Manchester. For further information about the event, please visit https://manchester.legolanddiscoverycentre.co.uk/whats-inside/events/autism-friendly-halloween-fun-without-fear/, and to book tickets, visit https://www.eventbrite.co.uk/e/autism-friendly-halloween-tickets-51809685163.