Emma shares her experiences trying to take her grandson to an indoor play area – that was supposed to be autistic friendly. Their story highlights the lack of suitable and safe areas that exist for disabled children – exposing the barriers society puts in place for too many disabled young people and parent carers. This is their #SecretLifeOfUs.
I really want to share this experience of taking my 8 year old grandson, who has nonverbal autism and A.D.H.D, to an indoor play area that claimed to be autistic friendly with understanding staff and excellent service.
So firstly we got a bus at 9.30 and changed bus at 10.30. Unfortunately we missed the next bus by 4 minutes so faced a 25 minute wait. My grandson has difficulty with standing or sitting still so, to keep him safe, we had a lot of running up and down the bus terminal leaving coats and bags unattended as no waiting room and shops near not having seating inside due to covid.
Onto the second bus it was all calm again, arriving at our destination at 11.30. My grandson was excited as had seen photos of the play area on my phone and walked calmly – until we came to a row of water features! At this point we had lots of pulling so he could get to the water, screaming, punching and pulling us both to the floor.
So we sat on the floor outside a shopping mall, where lots of people stared, but we sat until he was calm. We made it to the play area, only to face a long queue and families standing in the reception area.
Okay… I had booked our place in advance had spoken to a member of staff who assured me that the morning would be quieter and by pre-booking there would be no stress and suitable care would be given. So, noticing a member of staff I approached her and explained our situation and she arranged for us to go to a receptionist to be booked in.
My grandson ran out of the building several times whilst I tried to complete an online waiver that the receptionist requested I do so that we could enter. After attempts to calm my grandson we were led to a door where inside there was a small dark room with many adults and children seated in-front of 2 or 3 large TVs on the back wall. An instruction video was then turned on at med to high volume.
Now my grandson was screaming, hitting himself and backing into a corner. He was terrified and when I opened the door he was able to run through the reception area and out into the street. He ran to a water feature and covered himself in very cold water running up and down the walkway screaming .I was unable to get him inside another building or shop so had to change his clothes on the walkway.
Finding his shoes were also wet I had to calm him enough to get to a shoe shop and buy him some shoes. He ran around the shop several times without shoes on and pulled me to the floor twice before he would put on the shoes.
At the play area, I called out a manager to request a refund as Lincoln did not even enter the play room or use any of the equipment. She refused the refund as policy.
So we returned on the buses to home.
This was our experience of a day out designed for my grandson to exercise and have fun. This Saturday cost £65 including £25 for new shoes.
I love my grandson and I am so very saddened by the lack of safe and suitable places that he can go to and the lack of opportunity for him to play as non-disabled children play and enjoy a regular Saturday day out.
Thank you for giving me this opportunity to share this experience with people who understand and care about us. From Emma and Lincoln Hunt
At the Disabled Children’s Partnership, as well as campaigning one of our main purposes is to provide a platform for lives of disabled young people and families. To promote understanding, create empathy, and expose injustices through the #SecretLifeOfUs campaign and beyond. Please do contact at firstname.lastname@example.org to share your #SecretLifeOfUs – whether it’s a blog, poem or video.