Practical information on planning a day out including taking evidence of your child's disability, eating out, finding out about disabled facilities, and the National Key Scheme.
The word 'child' is used throughout, but the information provided may also be applicable to adults.
Evidence of your child's disability
Many tourist attractions will need evidence of a child's disability and their care needs before they will offer concessions. This is particularly true for children with autism (including Asperger syndrome) who may have near invisible needs. The best person to ask to provide this evidence is probably your GP. If you are in receipt of Disability Living Allowance (DLA), Personal Independence Payment (PIP) or Carers' Allowance, take a copy of the award letter(s) with you. It may also be useful to have a copy of any letter which states your child's diagnosis.
Johnny gets really over-excited and tends to tire very easily. Now if we go out for the day I plan what we will do, including breaks, well in advance. Often I order a guidebook or something before we actually visit a place. Then before we go Johnny and I draw up a timetable together which we take with us. He paces himself a lot better if he knows what to expect later in the day.
Father of a ten-year-old with autism
It is always worth planning ahead and phoning the place you want to visit to find out what is on offer beside concessions. Some attractions publish special guides for visitors with special needs which they will normally be happy to send you. Most places are very happy to accommodate special needs and many even go out of their way to offer help and support.
James loves music but will always hum along which can disturb people around him. For his birthday I wanted to take him to see the musical Grease, which he has watched hundreds of times on DVD but was worried about how he'd behave. I rang the theatre in advance and explained the situation and they gave us our own box and even gave us our tickets for free!
Mother of a nine-year-old with autism
If eating out is a problem bear in mind that many big restaurant chains have policies on providing for people with special diets. You can generally get details of these policies by phoning your local branch. For example, most branches of McDonald's will serve an extra burger as a substitute for a bun. Most chains should be able to provide you with details of the ingredients of their products so you can check they are safe.
We practically didn't go out again after Rohan had the mother of all tantrums at the local cinema. He'd been before and knew what to expect but the only seats available when we arrived were at the front which was just too noisy for him. It was only when a friend of the family offered to come out with us for the day that I got my confidence back. Rohan didn't behave perfectly but at least there was another adult there to deal with things when they went wrong.
Mother of a ten-year-old with Asperger syndrome
National Key Scheme
If you are planning a day out with a child with autism accessible toilets may be an issue, especially if your child is likely to need assistance from a member of the opposite sex. Disabled toilets are one solution but many of these are part of something called the National Key Scheme (NKS) and can only be used by people with a Radar NKS key. Although this scheme can be frustrating if you don't have a key it does ensure that disabled facilities are maintained to a high standard and can't be abused by non-disabled members of the public.
Also available is a National Key Scheme guide detailing the location of over 9,000 accessible toilets. They also have a smartphone app.
To obtain a Radar NKS key and guide, contact:
Disability Rights UK
Tel: 020 7250 8191
Last summer we took the kids to a pick your own fruit farm which all of them loved. It seemed really safe so we just let the older two wander around and eat themselves silly. There was a playground which they spent a lot of time in too. Olly wasn't so keen to go off with the others so he stayed with us picking fruit. We made jam with some of the fruit and he was so chuffed with these jars of jam which he'd practically made from scratch.
Mother of an eight-year-old with Asperger syndrome