Well we had an absolutely fantastic time at Sandcastle Waterpark this morning.
The staff were amazing and went out of their way to make the trip as stress-free and enjoyable for Toby as possible.
I contacted the Waterpark a few days ago via email and explained that our little boy had autism and asked if they needed any evidence for disability/carers admission prices and if they had any times when it was slightly less busy. I had almost an instant reply saying that during the holidays it does get quite busy between 11am and 2pm so they would recommend getting in at 9:30am when it opens and to pre book tickets online to avoid the queues.
We did pre book and arrived just as the water park was opening. We parked the car in the car park (which is run by the council) and discovered that the ticket machines weren’t working and the neither was the contact number given if there was a problem. We were told of alternative car parks however putting Toby back in the car was not an option and neither was leaving me with both boys in a swimming pool whist Joel moved it! We had given Toby his swim bag (we use it as an object of reference to communicate with him) and he had seen the slides on the side of the building (he clapped and flapped when he saw them!) So getting him back in the car to move the car would cause a massive meltdown as he wouldn’t understand so we decided just to leave the car. I explained that Toby had additional needs to a very helpful member of the front of house team and he said, “oh this is Toby? Let me take you through!”
We followed him past the rest of the people queuing to get in. I was scratching my head as I was sure I hadn’t give Toby’s name in the email or when we pre booked as we had just ordered one disabled child and two carers (under 3’s are free) we were taken through and introduced to a lady called Sue and she asked if we had pre booked the wet room. I explained that he hadn’t so she took us straight to the front of anther queue and they asked if we would like to use the wet room. Joel and I looked at each other…we didn’t know anything about the wetroom but we agreed and Sue took us straight through to the poolside and into the wetroom. There were two or three wet rooms with lots of space, nappy changing facilities and a shower with a hoist.
We were also given a table to put our towels on which was reserved for guest with disabilities and access to the wetroom changing room and a locker on the poolside. Sue explained that she was on hand all day too if we were to need anything (how amazing is that?!)
Getting changed in the wetroom made the whole experience very stressfree for Toby as changing rooms can be quite busy and loud. What great customer service!
It turns out that there was another boy called Toby with additional needs visiting at the same time as us (hence the mix up with the wetroom!) We met Toby and his family on one of the slides (fancy having two Toby’s with additional needs there at the same time!) Joel and I were both really impressed by how supportive and inclusive the staff were of children and young people with disabilities. As well as helpful and friendly staff at the side of the pools, there were pool attendants actually in the water to help and supervise. These attendants will also support guests with disabilities by taking them on the slides if needed! I’m sure that will be great as Toby gets older as I don’t think I’ll want him going down on my knee forever! For more info about this check out –Accessibility at Sandcastle Waterpark There is also a dedicated Facebook page too (how fab is that?!) Sandcastle Accessibility Facebook
There were signs up saying that photos and videos were strictly not allowed to be taken in the swimming pool area. I did however sneakly take one of a sign on the first aid office door…(sorry Sandcastle…!) It does however explain why the staff were so incredibly good with Toby…if you can’t see it, it says ‘I light it up blue, Sancastle Waterpark, for everyone with autism!’ Which is part of the Autism Speaks campaign. It was lovely to see such a popular tourist attraction making a real effort to value and include children and young people on the autistic spectrum.
The Waterpark it self was fantastic, loads to do for all ages. The boys loved the slides, lazy river and just splashing about. There were lots of slides that the boys could go on (with an adult) and plenty of exciting rides for other children too. Toby made his own little routine for the order of the slides and led us around his little circuit. It was lovely to see him so happy and enjoying the experience. It was lovely and warm and clean too which is always important in these places.
There are loads of picture and video clips on the Sandcastle Waterpark website (you can even do a virtual tour too!) Sandcastle Waterpark Website
It did start to get busy which we expected during School holidays and it got a bit noisey for Toby. We tried to put some of Ted’s ear plug in but he didn’t like the feel of them in his ears – maybe that’s something we need to practice for next time. By 11am Toby was ready for a break and had some chips at his special reserved table and by 11:30am he was ready to get out.