The school summer holidays are fast approaching. While this can be a welcome opportunity for some family time it can also be a stressful time for parents and caregivers whose children have special educational needs and disabilities (SEND).
For children and young people on the autism spectrum the loss of the routine and structure that school offers can be disorientated and destabilising. The National Autistic Society has some useful tips for preparing for the summer holidays. These tips can also be useful for any child who struggles with change and transitions, whether they have an autism diagnosis or not.
Sports, activities and holiday camps
A good starting point for finding activities for children and young people with SEND is Wiltshire Parent Carer Council. If you’re a parent carer it’s likely you will have had contact with them but you might not know they have a regularly updated calendar on their website which details events and activities that are available.
These range from youth clubs to sporting activities. Some are groups and sessions run especially for children and young people with SEND and others are inclusive groups that are open to all, regardless of ability.
One example of an organisation offering sports and other activities to young people in Wiltshire and is open to all is In2Sport. They run a number of holiday camps during the school holidays which may offer suitable all-day activities for your child.
Wiltshire Council have worked with local childminders and activity providers to create a childcare and activity directory to help parents find childcare during the school holidays this summer. Many of the providers listed in the directory are accessible to children with SEND. Parent carers can also email firstname.lastname@example.org for details of providers in their area.
Activities for the whole family
Accessible swimming sessions are available across Wiltshire’s leisure centres – phone your local one for details.
Pool-Pods have recently been installed at a number of Wiltshire pools, making swimming pools more accessible for disabled customers and those with limited mobility. These are controlled by the user, providing more dignified and independent access to the pool than a hoist. They have been installed at The Vale in Pewsey, Marlborough Leisure Centre and Devizes Leisure Centre. Installations are due at Five Rivers Health & Wellbeing Centre, Olympiad Leisure Centre, Trowbridge Sports Centre and The Activity Zone in Malmesbury (by March 2023). They will also be installed at the new Melksham Community Campus, which is opening this August.
The Link Centre in Swindon offers a weekly session for those with learning/physical disabilities. Volunteers are available to assist and sledges, penguins and snwomen are available. Wheelchairs are welcome on the ice. Contact the centre for full information before travelling. The centre also runs inclusive bounce sessions at its trampoline park.
Many of Wiltshire’s soft play centres offer inclusive or SEND sessions which may be more relaxed, have music turned down or off etc. It might be worth looking for these sessions if you think they will make for a more enjoyable visit for your family.
Accessible walks and visitor attractions
The National Trust website makes it easy to filter results according to accessibility and details which parts of its places can be accessed by wheelchair users.
Wheelmap is an online map where users can mark wheelchair-accessible places. Some areas have more places marked up than others, but it can be a simple way to find out if there’s a pub nearby that doesn’t have steps to worry about, for example.
Wheelchair friendly walks can be found online, including a few good ones at Accessible Countryside and the Forestry Commission website (the latter lists facilities and accessibility information for their managed woodlands).
The website Kids Days Out lists a wide range of family places to visit and includes accessibility information (although many say to call and check yourself before visiting).
Snowball is a new app which will give you information on disabled friendly places of business and what disabled facilities are available. So, for example if you are travelling to London, you can open the Snowball app, select your location and all the venues with disabled access will pop up near your location, giving the user a choice on which bar, restaurant, shop, cinema, corner shop, tourist attraction, supermarket or coffee shop they can visit without being disappointed or turned away (This isn’t an endorsement and we haven’t had chance to try it out – if you do try it, we’d love to hear how you get on).