Tina is a local blogger who often writes about the challanges of raising autistic children. Here she shares her top 5 autism-friendly activities in Greater Manchester.

Getting out and about with a special needs child can be challenging at times. Our son is almost 6 and has what the experts call “low functioning Autism”. Every person on the Autistic Spectrum is different, but for Sam, busy and noisy places can be difficult. Sam doesn’t speak yet, and needs 1-1 support. He has a tendency to run off, scream and get aggressive when he is overstimulated.

Over the past few years, we’ve had plenty of great family experiences, and some not so great ones. With that in mind, here’s our top 5 “Autism Friendly” places to to go within Greater Manchester.
 

1). Wheels For All - This is a nationally recognised programme, which allows children and adults with special needs to experience cycling. They have a large range of specially adapted cycles, and the activities are great fun as well as physically and mentally stimulating. Sam usually sits on a seat at the front of an adapted 2 person bike, while someone else pedals and steers him round the track. This leaves him free to feel the wind in his face and watch the world whizz by.

The Wheels for All leaders have the knowledge and confidence to work with adapted cycles, which allows participants to enjoy the benefits of cycling. The centres welcome individuals, groups and families to be involved. There’s over 50 centres nationwide, and 8 in Greater Manchester! You’ll find them in Bury, Wigan, Leigh, Salford, Wythenshawe, Gorton,, and two in Bolton. The session days and times vary by location, and you pay a donation to join in. You can view the session locations and times here.
 

2). Ordsall Multi Sensory Room - This sensory room is a little gem. It’s located inside the Ordsall Fit City - right near The Lowry Outlet and Ordsall Park. You have to phone up and book in, but I have never once - in over 3 years of using it been told it’s unavailable.

It’s a large room with loads of sensory equipment and lights. The staff are really friendly and will show you how everything works, before leaving you to your own devices. If your child finds busy sensory rooms and soft play places difficult to manage, this is well worth a visit! I have taken Sam and his sister here on several rainy days. For a 50 minute session, you pay £3.50 per child aged 0-5 and £4.50 for over 5’s. (Parents and carers go free). 
 

3). Jump Nation Autism Friendly Session - Sam loves to bounce! He loves trampoline parks, but the noise and crowds can get a bit much for him. The Autism Friendly sessions at Jump Nation are a brilliant idea. The sessions run from 9-10am every 3rd Saturday and you need to book in advance.

The “Autism Friendly” session is different because the venue is only filled to half capacity, parents and carers go free, siblings are welcome, the music is turned down and you get free juice and biscuits after the session. This activity gives carers and siblings a great place to meet other people who understand the challenges of Autism, as well as a safe place for your child to bounce. It’s brilliant not having to worry about what other people there think of your child’s behaviour as you are all in the same situation.
 

4). Boomerang Play Centre - This is a multi sensory play centre in Bury, designed for children with special needs. The centre was founded by a local parent whose daughter has Autism and Learning difficulties. It is completely accessible and has plenty of space for wheelchairs as well as hoists and slings available for use. The centre has a soft play room, a sensory room, an interactive room and a cafe.

Boomerang can be loud at times, and each of the rooms is separate. If, like me you have more than one child, it’s best to make sure each child will have 1-1 support in case they want to use different rooms. Prices vary from £2 to £3.50 per child, depending on age. Rooms can be booked out in advance, so it’s best to check before visiting to make sure all of the rooms are accessible if you want to experience all of the rooms.
 

5). Trafford Centre Creche - My final recommendation is for those days when you need a little breather. Sam really struggles in shopping centres. He finds crowds difficult to manage and he hates feeling restricted in his pushchair. Sometimes, shopping is unavoidable - especially in the school holidays. The Trafford Centre Creche offer 1-1 support for special needs children aged 2 - 9 years old (or up to 5 feet tall). Prices vary depending on how long your child is staying, but it’s roughly £5 an hour. There’s a large range of toys, books, games and play equipment, as well as craft activities to keep your child busy.

Sam has been using this service since he was 3 and loves going. The ladies all know him now, and he usually has a great time in there. If, for any reason he does get upset, I am just a phone call away.

You have to phone to book a slot, and Sam usually stays for 90 minutes. That’s plenty of time for me to sort out his prescriptions, go to the post office and have a brew and recharge my batteries in peace. It has saved my sanity on more than one occasion! The staff are always really welcoming and have no issue with changing Sam’s nappy should he need it, and there’s space to store his buggy while he plays. When you arrive, they’ll ask questions about Sam’s needs, his likes and his dislikes to make sure he has a great time while he’s with them, and he’s then assigned a staff member who will be his 1-1 support while he’s there.
 

So there you have it - my top 5 Autism friendly activities in Greater Manchester. What would you add to the list? You can read more of our family adventures at mothergeek.co.uk

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