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Trafford Centre's Polar Expedition Christmas Grotto launches autism-friendly sessions

Discussion in 'Autism Spectrum News, Events and Research' started by AGXStarseed, Nov 14, 2017.

  1. AGXStarseed

    AGXStarseed Well-Known Member

    Jun 13, 2013
    (Not written by me)

    Music and fountains will be turned off as bosses try to create a calm atmosphere for youngsters

    Autism-friendly sessions have been launched at intu Trafford Centre’s Christmas grotto.

    In a bid to provide 'a relaxed environment to visit Father Christmas', t he Polar Expedition experience will cater for a much smaller group of visitors in an early morning session, meaning no stressful queuing is involved.

    The approach to the grotto via Barton Square will be calm and quiet – with music and fountains turned off – while designated autism-friendly elves are on hand to support families through the visit and direct children to a quiet space should they need it.


    The volume of music in the grotto will also be reduced and children can choose whether they want a photo taken with Father Christmas or an elf.

    The team from intu Trafford Centre have worked closely with special educational needs coordinators from Salford City Council Starting Life Well Team and local School St Hugh of Lincoln in Stretford to create an autism-friendly social story for parents and carers to download from the website ahead of their visit.

    And it's not the only autism-friendly grotto coming to Greater Manchester this year.

    Mum-of-six Jan Barkworth runs support group AutiSK and has launched another at Adswood Young People's Centre in Stockport.

    Jan, who has five children with the condition, says the grotto will 'avoid the sensory overload of shopping centres' and 'relieve the stress of visiting Santa if your child or young person has additional needs'.

    Jan's son Lewis is being an honorary elf at the AutiSK grotto

    A dad who has a son with additional needs will be filling the shoes of Santa and one of Jan's twin boys Lewis, 13 - who has complex needs including autism and learning difficulties - will be an honorary elf after receiving a letter from Santa asking him to help.

    Jan said: "We have found that many families who have children and young people with disabilities struggle to access Santa grottos due to the noise levels of the shops, busy crowds, tannoy systems and lighting.

    "So AutiSK decided to create a Santa's grotto at Adswood Young People's Centre for these families to get the pleasure of visiting Santa in a calm quiet environment where we understand the families needs and also at a cheap price affordable for them all.

    "It also means that young adults who have disabilities and still believe in Santa can visit Santa without others judging because of their age."


    Alison Niven, regional centre director at intu Trafford Centre, said: “We’re aware that for thousands of children diagnosed with autism, a visit to Father Christmas can be a daunting mix of loud noises and crowds.

    "As the first autism-friendly shopping centre in the UK, it was vital we addressed this and ensured that a trip to a grotto can be as magical and exciting as possible for every single child.

    "Some simple and small adjustments can be easily made to create an autism-friendly alternative and allow autistic children to participate in Christmas cheer just like everybody else.”


    The Autisk grotto is open for bookings from 4pm to 8pm every Friday starting December 1. It costs £10 per family (up to four children per family) for a 15-minute visit with Santa.

    Parents take along their own gift for Santa to give their child and take their own photos.

    There will be free mince pies and cookies and hot or cold drinks for each family during their visit.

    To book email [email protected] or contact via the Autisk Facebook page here .

    The Trafford Centre's autism-friendly sessions are running between 10am and 11am on November 19 and 20 and 26 and 27.

    Tickets cost £7.50 for children and £5 for adults, including booking fees.

    To book, email [email protected] with details of number of children and adults visiting and any special requirements.

    Source: Trafford Centre's Christmas Grotto launches autism-friendly sessions
  2. Mr Allen

    Mr Allen Well-Known Member V.I.P Member

    Mar 26, 2016
    Why is the Children's ticket dearer than the adult's?
    • Informative Informative x 1