A Roman Bumblebee….

So a return trip to Storyhouse Chester,  a fabulous theatre, cinema, library, restaurant and arts centre all rolled into one (with a great name). It is based within the old Odeon Cinema right in the middle of historic Chester, close to the Town Hall and Cathedral.

Storyhouse opened in May 2017 so as you would expect has excellent access and facilities. Storyhouse also has free daily activities for families, and a huge variety of events and performances in the cinema and theatre.

We parked on Frodsham Street which is a large car park in the centre of Chester solely for blue badge holders, and has 4 hours free parking. It’s about a 10 minute slow but level walk; but there are much closer places to park which are very easy to find (see the website Access tab for clear directions).

As we strolled up to Storyhouse we unexpectedly came across some rather large visitors, who were due to go on the Midsummer March around Chester that afternoon!

Entrance into Storyhouse is via a wide and completely smooth ramp or short flight of steps, and there are automatic doors with a low-set button. Amazingly Emily pressed it once and went straight in, we would usually be stood there for a while as she organised the crowds and allocated herself the role of front of house….

You enter straight into a very wide and spacious central lobby with all the different areas of Storyhouse clearly marked. The lift is directly in front of you and toilet facilities to the left. And yes they have Changing Places Facilities!

We went into the Children’s Library as there was a free crafts activity in The Den, and Emily really enjoyed making a Roman helmet. The staff are very friendly and hands-on and help the children (and non-artistic parents like me) with the activity.

My little Roman soldier then enjoyed having a browse around the library, and choosing books we already have at home which is her speciality. I was impressed to spot some books incorporating large print and braille.

On the opposite side of the lobby is the main library, which has the genius addition of the restaurant ‘The Kitchen’ located in and around the bookshelves; a dream come true for a bookworm like me (not possible when visiting with a littlie, straight to the interactive screen instead). There is also a dressing up box and extra activities in the restaurant.

Storyhouse is a brilliant place to visit with children as there are always activities and events going on (often free), all the information is on the website and you can book online. There is a great Access guide, and you can also join the Access Register to make future bookings easier. They also host relaxed and accessible performances, and have excellent facilities for visitors with a wide range of disabilities.

(Try and go child-free sometime if you can escape, and enjoy a coffee, cake, a browse aaaaaand relax).

Don’t be put off by Storyhouse being right in the middle of a cobbled city, the parking is very close by and you can get there via a nice smooth pavement! Chester is a beautiful city and if you are heading down for a summer holiday or winter mini-break, make sure you pop into Storyhouse for a coffee and to find out more!

www.storyhouse.com

 

Doggy Tails in Wales (and beyond)

So not exactly a blog post but I thought we should introduce the new member of the family. Not content with already having to carry out lengthy searches for holidays that meet our family’s needs, we thought we’d make it that bit more interesting (difficult) by including an extra factor – pet friendly!

Meet Rosie, our 14 week old border collie pup. She seems to be fitting in pretty well round here, being a tiny bit loopy seems to help.

After 5 years of resolutely answering ‘No’ to pleading requests for a dog, and ‘A Dog‘ being at the top of every birthday and Christmas list during that period, I finally caved last week. I’m in denial about the smell, moulting, toileting issues and exercise demands; and instead will just avoid inviting anyone around ever again, and enjoy the fun she is bringing to this madhouse.

We hope to be adding some reviews or blogs on places which are dog friendly but also really accessible. Luckily we live near lots of beautiful beaches, mountains and countryside, so a pretty good selection.

I’m pretty sure there will be some challenging moments (such as managing a car-sick puppy and trying to fit her and a Maclaren Major in the boot) but hopefully a few giggles too. Maybe it will encourage (force) us to become a more outdoorsy family. Watch this (doggy filled) space…

She doesn’t look too happy on this one, but she’s actually sniffing the grass in search of the next fabulous twig to chew.

Still working on lead control.

A new football/cricket/basketball pal.

A Flying Bumblebee chat with….Laura Rutherford! (Brody, Me and GDD)

Welcome to another Flying Bumblebee chat, this time with the lovely Laura Rutherford who kindly agreed to share her top tips and experiences of planning family holidays when you have a child with additional needs.

Laura is a very successful parent blogger in the SEN world (and beyond!) with a large online following. Laura shares her experiences of family life with her 2 children, including Brody who has an undiagnosed condition resulting in global developmental delay.

Laura also writes for Huffington Post, Firefly, Autism Awareness, Mumsnet, Scope and many others. She is at the forefront of the Changing Places campaign – recently getting her ‘Pants Down’ on a busy London Street to raise awareness for  the campaign! Laura also now works for the PAMIS charity as a Changing Places Campaign Co-Ordinator.

So I was delighted when Laura agreed to answer a few questions on her own family holiday experiences!

Where was your very first holiday with Brody? How did you feel beforehand and was it how you expected?

Our first holiday with Brody was to Essex when he was one. It was before we knew that he had disabilities, although I had a gut feeling as he was very delayed. It was really quite stressful as he vomited a lot and had sensory issues. Before we even knew that sensory issues existed with other children, it was really hard to explain to others why Brody behaved the way he did.

Do you ever find it difficult to get the balance right between finding a holiday which is both suitable for you as a family of 4 but can also meet Brody’s needs?

We found a place that is just right for us a few years ago and we have been going back ever since. It isn’t perfect, but I think it’s about as close to perfect as we can find. It’s a few hours drive away from home and close to a beach, which Brody loves. It’s also close to several soft play venues and farm parks, which are really quiet so it’s lovely as it gives us the opportunity to let Brody explore without it being too busy. It also has wifi, which is essential!

Don’t get me wrong, it’s far from easy. We have to remove lots of breakable items as soon as we arrive and can’t let our guard down at all. The path to the beach is also gravel and a slope, which isn’t easy with a wheelchair. But on the whole it’s brilliant for us.

What are your top requirements when searching for holidays and how much luck do you have finding these?!

I think we will stick with where we go for now, but location is important. Not too far away from home incase something goes wrong and so the kids don’t lose patience in the car. Somewhere not too busy is also important to us.

WiFi is a must. Brody is up really early and without it, especially when not at home, it’s really hard to entertain him at 5am.

3 essential items for a family holiday or day out?!

iPad and WiFi
Wheelchair
Snacks!

What reassurances would you offer families considering their first holiday with a child with an additional need?

Don’t put pressure on yourself for it to be a perfect holiday. Holidays are hard work, regardless of how smoothly they go. When you’ve not got your home comforts and things that make life easier, like stairgates and specialist beds, it isn’t straight forward. Also, remember people never post the photos of their children up at the crack of dawn or having a moment. Life is never like someone’s Facebook photo album or status. Do what works for your family.

And finally……For you all as a family, “Holiday Happiness is……?”

Everyone smiling at the same time! (and those blissful few hours when they go to bed and you get to put your knackered feet up!)

Laura also gave me permission to include these pictures of her cuties Brody and Sydney, showing why holidays are worth all the hard work and planning!

Great advice from Laura, and a reassurance to all parents working hard to make sure family life runs as smoothly and happily as possible.  So true that Facebook is not a reflection of real life!

I think that when you become parents the words Holidays+Relaxation don’t tend to be included in the same sentence anymore, and it takes a while to adjust to that. When you begin to realise that it’s more about Holidays=Happy Times (hopefully…), and that the Relaxation part will come back in the distant future; you can focus on planning whatever is right for your family and making some special memories.

That little bit more thought has to go into your plans if you have a child with additional needs, and it’s really helpful to lean on other parents walking the same path for reassurance and tips. As Laura describes, it can sometimes be easier to be at home (our house is the only truly Emily-proofed place!), but if you can find somewhere that is right for your family and your needs, it’s really important to remember that you’re a family first and to seek out those places.

Hop on over to Laura’s blog and social media links to find out more about her lovely family and be inspired by her reflections on parenting a child with additional needs.

www.brodymeandgdd.com

Thank you Laura!

 

 

 

A Floating Bumblebee – Lazy River Boat Ride

A trip to Chester Zoo again today, and we made a beeline (hee hee) for the Lazy River Boat Ride, as I was keen to try out the accessibility. Despite being members on and off for years we haven’t tried out the ride since the Islands opened.

It’s quite a walk for small legs or limited mobility as Islands is at the far end of the zoo from the entrance, so you may need your buggy or wheelchair. Emily is getting heavier as she gets older, and the walk pushing her in the heat was a good work-out!

A one-way system has been set up through Islands, presumably to manage the crowds, so it’s a nice island hop through  the Coral Sands and 4 of the 6 South East Asian islands (these are Panay, Papua, Bali, Sumatra, Sumba and Sulawesi) to reach the jetty at Sumba. We didn’t go into the Monsoon Forest as we knew it would be too hot (!) but know from previous visits that accessibility is good.

The website states that you must be able to walk unaided to travel on the Lazy River Boat ride, but wheelchair users can travel on a wheelchair adapted boat.

When we arrived at the entrance to the ride we overheard the guide stating that the wait time was 30 minutes, but he directed us to the right of the entrance down towards the wheelchair access point at the exit of the ride. I was so glad of this as it would have been difficult to queue with Emily for that length of time. (Amazingly this is a free ride for everyone!).

At the jetty the staff ask if you need a wheelchair adapted boat, but as Emily could walk to the boat we only needed to wait a few minutes before being able to get onto the next boat. It is a bit of a drop down into the boat, so I got in first and lifted Emily in with some help from a member of staff.

A lovely family also waiting needed wheelchair access, so they just had to wait a few minutes for the next boat. A ramp is guided to the back of the boat and the wheelchair user is pushed on and placed in a slightly raised adapted point at the back of the boat. It looked like a fairly quick and straightforward transfer. (Any wheelchair users who have travelled on this ride please feel welcome to leave comments and feedback for other visitors!).

The boat ride takes just under ten minutes and is very tranquil, encouraging you to listen out for the sounds and spot the signs and clues. It takes you closer to the animals as you pass alongside the tiger reserve and orangutans outdoor space.

It was fairly straightforward to exit the boat by lifting Emily out, but it’s definitely a 2 person job both from a physical and safety point of view.

The Lazy River Boat ride is a great opportunity to experience something that isn’t always straightforward or even accessible for those with mobility difficulties (particularly wheelchair users). To be able to have immediate access onto the boat was a real bonus.

I really think Chester Zoo should promote this accessible ride more on their  website, as it’s a great attraction! Photos of the wheelchair access would be helpful and reassuring to disabled visitors, as you can sometimes be put off from visiting certain attractions if you can’t visualise how the access may work. Some attractions now provide ‘Visual Stories’ which are just amazing!

I think access onto the boat would be difficult for adults who can walk unaided and don’t use wheelchairs but have very limited mobility, as it is too big a step down into the boat. I would advise you contacting the zoo to enquire further though.

So, a lovely cooling (and accessible) ride through the South East Asian Islands and if you close your eyes and listen to the sights and sounds you can transport yourself there (if you’re lucky enough to have a hot day that helps)…..