Autism, SEN parenting

The Thomas Centre – ‘no apology’ holidays for families affected by Autism and related conditions.

The Lincolnshire coast

It’s summer holiday time and we are at the wonderful Thomas Centre in Lincolnshire. It’s our 3rd holiday here and it’s truly a relief to be back! The boys love it – they are happy, safe and parted from their devices as there is so much to keep them busy.

The huge 80m play barn has soft play, giant chess and skittles, table tennis, air hockey, a pool table and lots more. Outside there is space to run around, 25 acres in fact!

The children are enjoying hide and seek in the grounds and woods surrounding the accommodation. There are fun outdoor play areas for young and old alike, a football pitch, basketball hoop, huge sunken trampoline and a go kart track with enough karts for the whole family to race around! Even my four year old can reach the go kart pedals this year.

Skittles in the play barn!

The swimming pool is just the right size for families to enjoy their private hour slot daily. My boys love splashing around and making as much noise as possible and there are no worries about who we are splashing or upsetting / deafening!

The best thing about the Thomas Centre and the real reason we are here is that nobody bats an eyelid at DS’s noises and behaviours. The Thomas Centre is a specialist holiday centre for families affected by autism and related conditions. It’s a truly non-judgemental environment. The owners Richard and Jan and the other families staying here, all know how hard a ‘mainstream’ holiday can be.

When people stop and stare everywhere you go, when the public just don’t understand the noises, tics, meltdowns and unusual behaviours that can result from the need to self regulate in stressful, busy environments. When you just want to relax as a family without feeling exposed and judged, swimming constantly in a goldfish bowl.

Like so many special needs parents, I hear myself saying sorry again and again every time we leave the house. To all the people who my son collides with, leans into, or offends with his noises and phrases. I steer him past the people and I say sorry. There is absolutely no need for apologies here. In fact ‘no apologies’ is a rule at the Thomas Centre. We are having an apology-free holiday and it’s an incredible relief.

My son beats his fists hard on his chest when he is stressed and makes loud, unusual and repetitive noises. This makes people stop to stare, tut or sometimes laugh mockingly. The Thomas Centre is our haven – because here no one is laughing at him.

Other families are similarly affected and we are all feeling a huge relief to be in such a safe space and to be surrounded by the safety of others who know.

Yesterday we ventured out briefly to a nearby seaside resort. It was too ‘peopley’ for my DS as we tried to buy some supplies on the high street and his noises and stims were heightened. People stared and tutted as usual and one woman took particular offence to us standing in the bakers shop as DS was rocking and leaning into people unable to stand still. We were all very relieved to be back safely at the Thomas Centre and back in our PJs!

Holidays here have been designed with the whole family in mind. After all, we all really need a break from time to time. ASD children and their siblings can relax and play contentedly as their parents are able to switch off and know that all the children are safe and happy.

The holiday properties here are beautifully designed and no expense has been spared. Luxurious furnishings, huge comfortable squishy sofas, large dining tables for families to gather to eat and play, spacious comfortable bedrooms and high quality bathrooms and wet rooms with deep tubs for soaking the cares away.

While the kids are bouncing and racing around with their walkie talkies, we adults are reading, watching films, wearing face packs, soaking up the glorious open aspect countryside views and listening to the blissful sounds of happy, relaxed children playing and being themselves. I wouldn’t have it any other way – happy holidays!