Autism and neurodiverse friendly attractions

Friday, 1 April 2022

There are now many events and venues around the UK that cater for those who experience neurodiversity, making it easier for those on the autistic spectrum or with different needs to enjoy and take part in regular events and attractions.

To make things a little easier, we’ve found some of the best autism and neurodiverse friendly attractions across the East Midlands and London!

The Midlands

National Justice Museum

National Justice Museum

Hear true and extraordinary stories brought to life at the National Justice Museum. From experiencing ancient dungeons to engaging with contemporary exhibitions and events, law and justice are brought to life in exciting and relevant new ways.

The museum has created a sensory map to identify sensory-friendly spaces within the Museum. You can use this as a guide for finding areas that tend to be quieter and less crowded, spaces that have seating, and others with tactile engagement and activities.

National Space Centre

Image © National Space Centre

National Space Centre, Leicester

During busy periods, visitors to the National Space Centre can be provided with fast-track entry for visitors with autism. There are certain exhibits portraying rocket launches and cosmic explosions that are accompanied by loud noises which those who experience sensory disturbances may wish to avoid during the visit - though there are quiet areas throughout the centre which members of staff will be happy to direct you to.

Lincoln Castle

Image © Lincoln Castle

Lincoln Castle

Lincoln’s historic Castle offers a great day out for all and has a number of facilities to ensure that visitors with autism have a relaxed and enjoyable experience. Ear defenders are available for hire on arrival, and the Castle has created an autism-friendly guide that can be downloaded beforehand to allow visitors to understand the layout of the castle, the different areas which can and can’t be visited.

Derby Quad

Image © Derby Quad

Q Club at Derby Quad

QClub is aimed at children on the autistic spectrum, children with additional support needs or who are socially excluded, have disabilities, are young carers, looked after or bereaved children, between the ages of 5 and 18 years old. QClub experiments with art and digital technologies in a creative arts context and works with different artists throughout the year to learn new skills.

Supported activities are run on a Thursday evening throughout term time, with monthly family sessions and regular family film screenings.

For younger children there’s QClub minis - a weekly parent/carer group for children under 5 with autism, running every term time Tuesday morning from 10:00 – 12:00.

Clip ‘n Climb Nottingham

Clip 'n Climb is a National Autism Society recognised Autism Friendly Venue and welcomes all visitors with different access requirements.

They have combined their family & toddler sessions with SEN sessions as they are both the same structure with lower capacities every Saturday and Sunday mornings. These sessions are tailor made to help support and encourage participants. The centre can even create and hold tailor made sessions to support SEN groups with prior arrangement. See a detailed description of the Clip ’n Climb experience and a walk through of the centre here.

London

Lyceum Theatre

Lyceum Theatre

The Lyceum Theatre has long been known for its relaxed performances of The Lion King, which are specially adapted to be accessible to a wide range of audiences, including those with autism. The venue collaborates with the National Autistic Society for the events, and trained staff are always happy to help out.

The Lion King also regularly goes on a UK National Tour and the relaxed performances travel with it, too! Catch relaxed performances of The Lion King at Manchester’s Palace Theatre, too.

The Natural History Museum

The Natural History Museum

The Natural History Museum offers an enjoyable and interactive experience for all audiences. An early morning visit to the Natural History Museum is free from the hustle and bustle of the general public and gives visitors access to a wide range of galleries and activities supported by experiences, autism-aware facilitators.

The museum is also home to a contemplation room which is a quiet, naturally lit room used for prayer and reflection, and somewhere to take some time in a quieter place.

The Gate

Image © The Gate

The Gate

If you’re looking for a relaxed dining experience, The Gate is the place to go. Officially named as London’s first autism-friendly restaurant by the National Autistic Society, this restaurant has created a guide for customers with autism containing pictures and simple wording, identifying who is who in the restaurant, who is likely to approach the table, what might be asked from the servers, and what will be on the table.

It also notifies the reader that the restaurant maintains a “Chill Zone” with a sofa area, where anybody is welcome to take some space and have some time alone.

Penguins at ZSL London Zoo

ZSL London Zoo

Since 2021, ZSL has pledged to increase its ‘“Purple Program” which offers regular activities at London Zoo for people with disabilities. Early Openings are a part of this program and see relaxed openings for a small number of people to visit the zoo while it is quiet and calm enough to be a comfortable experience for autistic and neurodivergent children and adults. They start at 8:30 am and run until 10 am when the zoo opens to the public.

Early Openings are included in the price of the tickets you will need to access the zoo, which can be booked on the ZSL website. A disability concession ticket entitles the holder to a free companion or carer place with each ticket.

London Transport Museum

Image © London Transport Museum

London Transport Museum

Located in Covent Garden, London Transport Museum is a must for anyone with an interest in London’s history. The museum operates outside of regular hours on certain days to allow visitors to enjoy the museum at a quieter time, free from the general public and with many of the gallery sounds turned off. Advanced booking is essential, though children and young people under 18 go free; adults are charged the general admission rate and carers go free.

Prepare for your visit using the visual story guide, so you know exactly what to expect when you get there.

Tower Bridge

Tower Bridge

Experience a quieter and calmer Tower Bridge once a month on a Saturday during one of the relaxed opening slots. Explore the towers, glass floors and engine rooms as well as the family trail in a quieter atmosphere. To ensure that the Bridge is as welcoming as possible, the staff limit the number of people in attendance, turn off loud hand-dryers and replace them with disposable hand towels, and reduce any loud soundscapes and videos.

There’s also a visual story to help visitors plan their experience, as well as access toolkits around the bridge which contain sensory items to help those who may be overwhelmed with the new environment.

For tips on how to use the London Underground if you’re travelling with someone with autism, Ambitious about Autism have created this handy guide.

Book your ticket

What is EMR doing to help customers living with autism or neurodiversity?

Staff training

We carry out autism awareness training with our staff and as standard to all new frontline staff.

This training is designed to:

  • Give staff an understanding of the autism spectrum
  • Give staff an understanding that autism affects people in different ways
  • Identify differences in how autistic people may process sensory information
  • Identify ways in which they can change their own practice to support people

Customers may choose to wear the Hidden Disabilities Sunflower Lanyard or use JAM cards to communicate to our staff that they may need a little extra help or time.

At stations

We are engaging with expert groups to conduct autism environmental audits of our stations so we can better understand how our station environments can be improved for customers living with autism.

Assisted Travel Lounge Nottingham

At Nottingham station, we have created an Assisted Travel Lounge to provide a welcoming space for customers who require assistance or need a calm place to wait for their train.

The Assisted Travel Lounge, which has been installed on the dispersal bridge at the station, provides customers who have booked passenger assistance a designated waiting area and a clear meeting point. Find out more information about booking passenger assistance when travelling with us.

Travel information

The EMR website provides lots of helpful information about stations, services, and facilities so customers can better know what to expect ahead of their journeys.

  • EMR Messenger – personalised travel updates delivered via Messenger or WhatsApp to keep you informed about any changes to your journey.
  • Station information – from parking and location maps, to station opening times and accessibility, discover what to expect at our stations.
  • Latest travel information – find out what we’re continuing to do to keep customers safe when travelling with us.

For more information and support on travelling with someone with autism, Autism Speaks have created some support material.

We’d love to hear from you if you have anywhere you’d like to add to the above list - feel free to get in touch with us via our social media channels, on Facebook, Instagram and Twitter.