Category Archives: Places to visit

Chessington World of Adventures Review for Special Needs Families

Our family fun day at Chessington, Surrey

chimpanzee

Fortunately for us Chessington is not too far to get to, based just outside Epsom in Surrey, the journey by car took 45 minutes.

Booking Process

It is advisable to book your tickets before you get there otherwise you face a very long queue! The main website is fantastic with colourful detailed advice showing you the various attractions/prices and times. We found it best to ring up and book, we could tell the advisor exactly what our circumstances were and they were very helpful.

When we went which was in the summer of 2006 we did arrive just before 10am and there was already a queue for the people who had not booked!!! You have seperate kiosks to go up to if you have pre-booked but be warned you still have to queue for about 20-30 mins!!! Next time we will arrive around 9.30am…..
Samuel was border line and so were our stress levels! Once you have got through the barrier beware of the photographers!!!!, if you have a child who panics when having their picture taken this would really ruin your day! The idea behind it is the hope that you will buy a photo of your beloved thus bringing in more profit for Chessington….Walk on by and ignore!!!!!

Reporting in!

Given directions to Guest Services you are fully welcomed as a family and given carers tags to wear, with the child who has special needs a different colour tag to put on. Samuel felt comfortable and calm. We were given all the information we needed to make our day a stress-free one!

Off we Go!!!

attraction

Your are given a map which details exactly where every ride/attraction is – the layout of the site is good with signposts in case you get lost. We found that all the rides were laid out in certain areas very well with all the loud frightening ones away from the more placid ones. Chessington is a good all rounder suitable for all needs – Samuel is not one for the fast rides and does not like speed – we had plenty of slower attractions to go on which were just as fun!!

Special Perks

The one thing that Sam cannot do is queue – its impossible as I am sure you would agree!! A lot of the rides did have a queue and the waiting time was about 30 mins – if you have a special needs child and are wearing the approriate tags then you can go to the exit of each ride and can by-pass the queue completely and can get straight on. We found there was no embarrassment which we were concerned about – the usual stares etc – but because the exit is always quite away from the entrance we were not seen by the crowds!!

Please note that you can only do this if the child with special needs wants to go on the ride, any other person in the group cannot just jump the queue unless they accompany the child.

The best ride for Sam

Tomb Blaster attraction

Has to be the one where you sit in a car a bit like a ghost train but there are no scary parts! You are given a lazer gun each and you slowly go around this cavern shooting at the red lights to see how many bugs you can get!! Even myself and my husband Lester enjoyed this one!!

Dining out or Picnic!!

There is a good choice of food but it is expensive!!! We did take our picnic as there are plenty of quiet places to sit – you can get completely away from the busy rides and visit the animals which is in another part of the place. There are also lots of climbing attractions and soft play bits that the children can go on and you do feel that you can sit and watch without constantly getting up checking that you can still see them!!!!

The Pros and Cons

pros and cons

Pros

  • Easy to find and located near to motorway junction turn off.
  • Friendly Guest Services Staff ensuring we were welcomed and reassured of any difficulties.
  • Good Choice of Rides/Attractions to suit all abilities and ages.
  • Plenty of places to have a picnic or to eat in within a quiet or busy environment depending on which you preferred.
  • Fantastic “no queueing policy” for special needs children wanting to go on the rides/attractions making life so much easier.

Cons

  • Long queues when entering if you have not booked and still about a 20 min queue for those who have booked!! Not suitable for children who just cannot queue at all for any length of time.
  • There were a lot of foriegn staff working around, most of which did not speak barely any English!!! Not very helpful when trying to ask a question/direction!!!

Recommendations

The management at Chessington should try and change the checking in proceedure to avoid queuing at the entrance for special needs children and their families/carers – even though you can book your tickets on line it does not eliminate queueing!!!

A simple electronic booth to one side would resolve this issue – by booking up before hand a code/voucher could be given a bit like a pin number which you could check in by thus saving time and staffing. The cinemas these days have these so why can they not be installed at these busy venues!!!

If they are going to employ a lot of foreign students on a part time seasonal basis they should contribute as part of their training an English Language Study Basics Course as part of their induction process – this would help the students in our country and our sanity when asking for directions/help!!!

Score out of 10 – would have to be an 8 – a good place for all the family!!!

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The Springboard Project, Horsham – an exciting place for special needs families

Samuel’s Adventure at Springboard!

What is Springboard in Horsham? – I hear you ask, well for Samuel it is a place filled with fun, excitement, laughter and most importantly an understanding and sense of belonging.

Our Sanctuary

For anyone living in Horsham or in the surrounding villages/towns in West Sussex Springboard is a large Victorian house located in the centre of Horsham which has a dedicated team of staff and volunteers of all ages providing a multitude of resources, services and clubs available to special needs children and their families/carers of all ages.

I heard about this place through a friend of mine whose daughter already goes there, but the ironic thing about this was that when Samuel and Grace were only babies I used to go along during the day and just sit in their Sensory Room because the lights and bubble tubes used to relax both of them – at that stage I of course did not know what was to develop with Samuel.

Samuel’s Day

For Samuel having to go into a building he has never gone into before or to meet new faces whatever the age is a very anxious moment and usually like all these fun filled places for children these days they are normally loud, hectic, busy environments.

I took Samuel just for a visit – or so I thought – on our first Saturday so that we could both explore the house and garden, we were met by a friendly face in reception who signed us in and immediately a young chap with a grin introduced himself to Samuel and explained he was going to be Sam’s buddy for the morning. During school term time once a month children can go along on pre planned visits on Saturdays from 10 am til 12.30 pm and can be left with their assigned buddy within a safe secure caring environment. During school holiday times they run a holiday club for various age groups.

Our Tour

Within a second of us going through the door Samuel was off dashing here and there with the buddy close behind – the beauty about this place is that Samuel is in no danger whatsoever and he can expore as much or as little as he wants with his own buddy. This also meant that I could sit quietly and fill out my membership forms!!

What’s there to do?

Well where do I start!!!!! There is a “Toy Library” for the children and parents/carers to use – Samuel on the first morning dressed up as a policeman, nurse, cowboy and played with prams, trolleys and much much more! He loved it…

Also in the house you have a large soft play room which has tunnels and mats that make music when you stand on them plus an enormous ball pool – this room is the best one for Samuel so that he can use up all his excess energy ducking and diving.

The quiet Sensory Room is one which I could stay in for hours!! The moment Samuel enters this amazing space he is like a mouse quietly moving around, touching and smelling all the wonderful smells and textures. It is a room full of lights, bubbles, a great hammock for chilling out on and another large ball pool for floating in.

The Garden

A garden every child would love to have – it is a large walled garden with stacks of outdoor play things – bikes, climbing bits, soft play, wendy house, swings and a great path area which is made up like a road traffic light system for the children to pretend driving around! Even I was a little envious….

Go and have a coffee!

By the time I had filled out all of my forms regarding Samuel and his needs he was so absorbed with his surroundings and content the helpers there said “Go and do some shopping in town, you have another hour yet.” I closed the door and walked through the park aiming for the town but suddenly felt quite lost – its a funny thing to explain how I felt – I did not know whether to laugh or cry – for the first time ever I felt a sense of relief that I had found a safe, loving, understanding place who could read Samuel like a book, they did not mind if he did his tics or made loud noises, they accepted Samuel for who he is.

Did I get into town I hear you ask? Yes – but the weird thing was I walked around and around and spent too long debating what I did need to get, so much so that the hour just went with a blink of the eye!

Going Home

Did he enjoy it I thought to myself – he did not need to speak, his face said it all – He loved every minute of it!!!!! He came out with a large bag of cakes he had made and did not stop talking about Springboard all the way home..

Samuel has since been back quite a few times now on Saturdays and he has even been along to the holiday club for his age group. Springboard is a lifeline for parents like myself – it also means that I can spend some precious time with my daughter doing girlie things which is often missed.

For Samuel “Springboard is the best place in the world,” “why can’t the world be like Springboard mummy, nobody stares or laughs, everyone there is normal just like me.”

“Priceless”

Articles coming soon to Samuel's World

coming soon

I hope you are finding Samuel’s World and its contents useful so far – please do contact me with any comments or ideas/suggestions that you think might be useful for the readers, it is still early days.

Due to a family crisis with getting our son moved to a special school this year I am finding keeping this website supplied with ongoing constant articles very time consuming – please accept my appologies – I hope to be able to dedicate more time to this support site once we have reached our goal!!

Don’t forget if you have a question but you can’t seem to find the answer, just email me to register to join our forum.

  • Understanding Tourettes – which book to buy for the whole family
  • What toys and gadgets help Samuel to relax and chill out – and where to buy them!
  • From a daddy’s own words – a personal account from daddy on how he felt regarding Sam’s diagnosis. – (This is proving difficult!!)
  • Statements – our story so far in this difficult battle. We are now at the Tribunal Stage with a possible court hearing late 07/early o8. We did achieve our Statement but alas it has not helped Sam move schools!!!!

lynette xx

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Butlins – Bognor Regis Review for Special Needs Families

Butlins at Bognor Regis, West Sussex

We travelled in the car which only takes about 1 hour, easy to find with loads of parking when you get there.

Booking Process

The process for booking your holiday with this company is very easy and straight forward. The website is colourful and interesting with pictures of all the attractions including accommodation categories – depending on your budget this is useful as they have different price bands.

Different Types of Accommodation

The agent on the telephone was very helpful and explained herself thoroughly. Because of Samuel’s needs we booked a Silver Self Catering Apartment which meant we could eat when we wanted to or had the option to dine out in there many restaurants in the complex.

The accommodation was 3 bedrooms ( to save on the arguments between brother and sister) lounge, kitchen and shower room with toilet. For a small amount of £10 I booked a ground floor apartment.

Communication Problems – hitting a brick wall!

brick wall

The communication skills of certain staff members when we arrived were very poor. Our check-in time was not until 4pm and having asked if we could check in early, or was there a quiet area we could go in to for Samuel, due to one of his tic attacks and the noise of the music being loud we were offered no options/help. It was only after complaining that a kind lady in Guest Services managed to ring Housekeeping and was informed that our room was in fact ready anyway! Accommodation was fair to good with a few minor problems but these were addressed quickly.

What does the complex offer

lots of money

The complex itself has lots to do for the whole family as long as you are prepared to dip into your pocket a lot!! Having been assured that everything apart from the bungee trampoline was free we were in a state of despair when arriving to find that this was not the case. The fair ground rides, soft play, children’s activities organized by the Redcoats, fort playarea outside and Swim Splash area were all free – all other attractions like the cinema, bowling, crazy golf, go karts etc were extra.

fairground ride

If you don’t mind queueing then this is the place for you – every attraction has a queue – and we were not offered any alternative like some large outlets like Chessington who allow families with special needs to avoid the queue! Samuel cannot queue, as you can imagine and this caused many a frustrated angry scene. Not a good time to go in holiday season as it was manic.

Food Glorious Food!

Food services were excellent, there was a large choice of dining out including the the option of eating at the new Shoreline Hotel – a lovely child friendly restaurant with lots of good meal choices with plenty of vegetables for the kids!. Entertainment for all in the evening and day – but you have to queue!!!!!!!!!!!!! The Splash Pool area is great with lots of pool areas, slides, wave machine, rides – however there are only 40 cubicles for 1000 people capacity so bear that in mind – we had to wait for over 10 minutes all wet for a cubicle to get changed in – again not good for children!!! Due to the lack of cubicles they only let in so many people at the entrance so again – MORE QUEUEING!!!!!

pros and cons

The Pros and Cons

Pros

  • Short distance in car, easy to find
  • Easy website/telephone booking
  • Flexibility with budget/pricing accommodation to suit needs and near the seaside!
  • Good restaurants/food services with lots of meal choices

Cons

  • Lack of Support/Communication for Special Needs
  • No organizational skills regards queuing for all attractions
  • Most attractions had to be paid for and were not included as promised when booking
  • This is still a smoking zone complex with smoking allocated to certain areas – still a problem!
  • Not ideal for children who hate a lot of noise – loud music/microphones
  • Poor changing facilities for the swimming area
  • Lots of queuing!!!!!!!!

Recommendations

They have alot of soft play areas for small children up to the older years – Butlins could easily incorporate a quiet/sensory area/complex for special needs children and their families so that they can chill out at any time!

Score out of 10 – would have to be 4.*

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Places to Visit – the pros and cons for special needs families

Perfect Planning?

Do you ever book a holiday or plan an outing and when you arrive at your destination nothing seems as you thought it would be !!!!!!! Well join the club………..

sightseeing bus

Since Samuel has been diagnosed, as a family we have tried many days out and holiday places in West Sussex and throughout the UK and have had good and bad experiences like most families do, but at the time we did not realise that Samuel’s disorders could affect the day so much!

Try, try and try again!

We have come to understand now that Samuel cannot cope on very long journeys in any transport, he does not like speed and would do anything for Daddy to travel at 20 mph all the time! For any child travelling it can be tedious and boring.

As a family we are trying to adjust ourselves every day as each day is different with hiccups here and there for Samuel and I have felt that it is important to try and go on days out as a family and to face each hurdle or challenge all together so that next time we go on a day out it will not be as much of a worry for Samuel because we will be more prepared than the first day out.

What our my favourites and which ones are not!

My own views and opinions of places we have visited for the day plus holidays will be listed including overseas and please do join in and share your experiences and I will list your comments regarding places you have been to that have not been up to scratch or have they and are brilliant!!!

It is always nice to go to a place you have been recommended and to know that your needs will be attended to. There is nothing worse than spending your money and getting nothing in return apart from unhappy faces!

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