To highlight autism awareness week we thought we would showcase three inclusive family holiday ideas in the UK perfect for a family with a child/children with autism.
Planning a family holiday should be exciting and not daunting, this is one of the reasons I launched Holiday Tots nearly 14 years ago when my youngest was born, for parents not to worry about the paraphernalia that comes with little ones. 14 years on we realise that many families have different challenges when travelling with their children, needing a little extra support now and then.
This is why we are launching a series of accessible holiday accommodation ideas starting with three holiday ideas for families with children with autism. Many of the owners we work with offer accessible holiday accommodation for varying needs, the three below all have programmes specifically designed for children with autism. Take a look…
First let us head to Devon, to the lovely North Hayne Farm who were awarded Autism Friendly status in 2018. They provide many resources to help children on the spectrum offering inclusive family farm holidays. They understand that normal routines can often be stressful for autistic children and encourage parents and carers to get in touch before their stay to discuss specific needs.
They have a whole page with information on what families with autistic children can expect on their holiday and where they can offer special consideration. Examples of this include private feeding of the animal or different times for other activities such as having a donkey ride when no one is around. Before you arrive, a ‘meet the team’ sheet with pictures can be found on their website and available to download to those who might benefit, so that the children can familiarise themselves before you arrive. There is also a map of the farm showing quiet spots and even a set of flash cards (packs of photo cards taken around the farm) to help develop communication skills.
North Hayne Farm is home to a collection of eight self-catering family-friendly holiday cottages, play barn, animals, dens, hot tubs, pamper treatments and more for everyone.
Animals offer many benefits to all children including those with special needs and the twice daily animal feeding sessions offers structure to the day. Visit here for more information on North Hayne Farm’s inclusivity policy.
For our second inclusive family holiday idea we head to Nettlecome Farm on the Isle of Wight who have several families who have children with autism, who are repeat visitors. The tours around the farm are managed so that everyone feels happy to become involved, often offering private tours for those who might benefit from a quieter experience. They also use picture cards to communicate which animal is coming up next.
Nettlecombe Farm is in a beautiful quiet location, often with only the sound of birds, or the odd other animal noise such as a bleat from the sheep, and so creates a lovely relaxing environment with plenty to be involved with if needed.
It is always advisable to highlight any special requirements before families arrive, with details of anything parents and carers may feel like their child/ren would benefit from.
The owners and staff at Nettlecombe Farm understand the amazing impact that animals can have on mental well-being and their animals are calm and friendly. A highlight being Oreo the super cuddly sheep who often lies down with guests and enjoys a cuddle. As well as the sheep there are some lovely cuddly bunnies, excitable goats, carrot loving donkeys, a cheeky pony called Pixie and plenty of other animals to get to know throughout your stay.
Nettlecombe Farm is a wonderful little farm-stay on the Isle of Wight, with lots of animals to feed, activities for the children, close to beaches and lots of family-friendly attractions if you can drag yourselves away.
Nettlecombe are currently working on our accessibility and inclusion page https://nettlecombefarm.co.uk/stay/316/Accessibility_&_Inclusion.php where you can find their recommendations for accessible and autism friendly days out on the island.
A lovely family-friendly holiday home right on the beach, large enough for large family gathering of groups of 14 plus room for cots and 3 further sleeping areas perfect for extra children.
House on the beach is family owned, owner Jo is a GP and understands the needs of families with children with special needs. She sent us a little information on why her holiday home is special for families with autism and other special needs and a few ideas on how to make holidaying with the family
“As a GP myself having spent time in Tresaith with friends and family with children with autism and other neurodiverse issues we realise that travelling with neurodiverse children throws up extra challenges. Routines are out of the window, uncertainty is top of mind, not knowing what you are going to find in terms of noise, materials on the beds, activities, distractions.
Simple from the booking process through to how it feels when you arrive to what you do when you get there and that is what we can offer.
The beauty of House on a beach in Wales is that everyone can settle in and just BE in their own time, space and on their own agenda. For a long weekend you might not need the car again and quite often even staying there for a week you will just use your legs other than to fill up with supplies at the local village or garage.
With everything just a stones throw away you can take it at your own pace. There are plenty of corners and quiet spaces to spend time. The garden is secure and elevated with an area for quiet reading or playing. The beach is the main attraction for younger kids but if it is all getting too much or if your child is wet and cold and wanting to go home you can return without everyone having to leave.
Food and cooking can be an issue too but with your own well equipped kitchen you do not need to think any more about it. It has everything you could need.
Key features that will really help:
💥Taking time out in the quiet areas of the garden
💥Watching the waterfall tumbling over the rocks
💥Rock pool challenges to see what you can find
💥Looking for sea glass on the beach
💥Taking a walk either way from the house
💥Making sandcastles or beach art
💥Sitting out of the front of the house playing a quiet game or listening to the waves.
A regular guest to House on the Beach and parent of Jack who has autism reflected on why she loves her breaks in Cartrefle.
“House on the beach Wales is definitely one of our families happy (and safe) places. With older teenage children and a younger son with ASD and ADHD it is always hard to find the perfect holiday. House on the beach ticks all the boxes with a safe large comfortable family home with a secure garden.
Over the years we have watched our youngest grow and develop and now watch as he walks to the beach himself confidently. It is a quiet bay with plenty of space to safely swim, run and explore. And staying literally on the beach it is easy to pop home if needed. Easy for tired parents to switch off as soon as they arrive and for children to enjoy.”
House on the Beach is in a stunning location just a stones throw from the blue flag Tresaith beach.
There you have it, three family-friendly holiday ideas for families with children with autism. You can find more details on these and other accessible family-friendly holiday accommodation on the Holiday Tots website.
If you have stayed some where you think worthy of us mentioning, please do get in touch. We are always on the lookout for accessible and baby and toddler-friendly holiday ideas to share with our families.