Families to enjoy a calm Christmas with autism-friendly grotto

A Hambleton mum who set up a charity in support of her autistic son is teaming up with Barton Grange Garden Centre for a special festive event.

Tuesday, 1st November 2016, 11:33 am
Updated Wednesday, 16th November 2016, 5:01 pm
Barton Grange Garden Centre is opening the doors for an autism-friendly festive day

The autism-friendly Father Christmas day will take place later this month on Monday November 28.

Lisa Donoghue founder of the OJ’s charity will also be working with the garden centre staff to equip them with skills to help and better understand the needs of autistic children.

Mum-of-four Lisa, whose 18-year-old son Oliver has autism said: “Finding a venue which is autism friendly isn’t always easy.

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“I’ve had previous experiences over the years at different places where staff haven’t really been the most helpful and it can make going out unsettling for families.

“Most people now have an awareness of autism but they don’t always fully understand what it means and how to identify with someone autistic.”

Lisa is hoping with better training employees will be more confident and help create a better environment so families are not left isolated and made to feel uncomfortable.

She added: “Sometimes in the past people have stared unpleasantly - it’s just heartbreaking.”

The Barton Grange Christmas event aims to provide a fun packed day in a safe and secure environment , catering specifically to the needs of autistic children.

Children will be invited to meet Father Christmas in the grotto, Lisa added: “We will slow down the pace of things if needs be. If a light or water feature cause any distress for children, they can turn it off and really take the time to slow things down. The event is the perfect safe haven for families to support one another.”

Events manager at Barton Grange, Emma Connolly, said they were happy to be supporting local families, she said:“Our main aimis to make the children feel as comfortable as possible. It’s a day for equality.”