The mother of a 15 year old autistic girl writes an emotional letter to The O2, thanking them for their incredible support during a Linkin Park concert.

The 02 arena.

Names have been changed at the request of the people involved.

On Monday 3 July, Catherine took her autistic daughter Lily to see her favourite band, Linkin Park at The O2 in London. Catherine was blown away by how the staff at the venue who went above and beyond to provide an astounding level of care, compassion and consideration to ensure Lily had an unforgettable evening.

We were so touched by the letter, we wanted to share it to demonstrate the positive outcomes that can be achieved when an organisation makes small changes to create an autism friendly space and experience.

"Dear The O2,

Last night I brought my 15 year old daughter to see Linkin Park. She is a big fan and had used her birthday money from last September to get the tickets. The only tickets left were up in 412, which I was a little concerned about, as she is autistic and can be overwhelmed by heights, high ceilings, and noise. Not wanting to limit or disappoint her, we got the tickets and I did a lot of preparation with her, looking at images of the venue and helping her to understand the whole process of the trip. We travelled from Suffolk. We did not expect any special treatment, but what we found at The O2 was the most amazing level of care, compassion and consideration that I have ever seen.

It all started when I asked for a bit of advice from one of your security men with a sniffer dog, outside the building. I wasn't sure whether to join the long security queue or go away to a café and come back later. As soon as he knew that Lily was autistic he directed us to go straight to the main doors. Another member of staff then walked us to the doors, checked our ID and handed us to the security team, who checked our bag and escorted us into the building. By avoiding the crowds and long queue you reduced her levels of stress significantly. Thank you for that.

The staff on duty on the stairs and walkways were polite and helpful but Lily was already showing signs of being overwhelmed, as we moved up the levels. A steward explained we should go to customer service at 410 if we had problems coping. Before we went to our booked seats, they told me that they could find seats lower in 412 if we needed them. A member of staff supported us in entering the seated area but Lily was too frightened and withdrew to the bar area. She was very upset and disappointed that she wasn't coping as well as she had hoped. Your staff reassured and encouraged her. They ensured two aisle seats were opened up for us, right next to the 412 entrance. But still she couldn't manage to enter zone 412.  

Then we were handed over to the most amazing man, Matthew, who took us downstairs to level 1. He gave Lily time to calm down and he printed off two different sets of tickets for seats in level 1- one set near to ground level and one set up in the Amazon deck. The team considered all the factors that could overwhelm her and came up with options that might work.

Matthew then escorted us to 110. It took quite a while, and several stops to get Lily to move forward but he waited patiently and was calm and encouraging. Once we got to the doors, he had them opened so she could get used to the noise before entering. When Lily was too nervous to go right in, he went ahead and took photos of the stage view and brought them for her to see what it would be like. She then went in. He showed us our new seats ZZ86 and 87 and took her to a small nearby platform which she was allowed to stand on as well. After a few minutes she settled and ended up having the most fantastic time.

The amazing, efficient, calm and thoughtful actions of every member of staff we met supported us both, and resulted in an unforgettable evening

The O2 staff discreetly passed on information to each other, which meant that all the customer care team knew that Lily and I were allowed to move from the platform to the seats and everything ran smoothly. I didn't have to keep re-explaining the situation at all.

I can only say a million thank yous. If anyone reading this has an autistic child, you will know and understand the enormous investment we make when we offer new experiences to our child or when we support them in achieving their aims. The amazing, efficient, calm and thoughtful actions of every member of staff we met supported us both, and resulted in an unforgettable evening.

As we left, I went to see a supervisor to tell them how impressed and grateful we were. She was so delighted to hear about it and then she offered us a quiet short cut out of the arena. A member of staff took us back through the building, avoiding the crowds and we came out of an exit close to the station.

The O2 is all about memorable and enjoyable events for all, and you absolutely followed through for us. You have amazing staff, working in a time when security and safety is at the forefront of our minds, you kept us all safe and you were still able to put the happiness of one child high on your priorities.  

If you are able to track down Matthew, who helped us, I would love to know that he saw this letter and for him to know what a massive difference he made for us, and probably makes on a daily basis for others like us. But thank you to you all, thank you for your generosity.”

There are more than 1 in 100 people in the UK on the autism spectrum, and many struggle to cope with unfamiliar places, sights and sounds which others are able to filter out, such as artificial lighting, loud music or large crowds. We welcome and applaud The O2 for making their venue so autism friendly for Lily and we hope other organisations can take inspiration from their actions that evening. 

To find out more about how venues can become more autism friendly then head to our Autism Friendly Awards webpage – an award scheme set up to champion premises who commit to ensuring autistic people and their families can enjoy spaces, business and shops in the same way as everybody else.