This post was written a couple of months back but I have given Butlin’s the opportunity to give me feedback before posting.
Let me preface this post by saying that B had a fab time at Butlin’s Bognor Regis, she has no expectations unlike her brother who if he sees a ride thinks he must immediately ride it. No, she is happy with her iPad and her pushchair but unfortunately I am not. She is content, but there is nothing like experience for a person, trying out new things and finding new ways to have fun.
This post outlines the ways in which I think Butlins could improve to help not only my daughter but other children with disabilities (of which we saw many during our stay.)
• A big issue was that there was nowhere other than the under-fives soft play which was enclosed. My daughter is a runner and a very fast runner so having nowhere to let her stretch her legs safely was definitely a concern. By the end of our stay as she was much more familiar with the setting she was able to walk, to The Deck for breakfast for example with someone holding her hand very tightly! She really enjoyed the soft play but unfortunately many people had babies in there which isn’t appropriate for a very tall almost 4 year old with no sense of “being careful.”
• On the same theme I was disappointed that the outdoor playground which as we approached looked hopeful but turned out to have an entirely useless gate (it had gaps at either side wide enough for a pushchair let alone a sneaky toddler. Also there were holes in the hedges which appeared to allow access to one of the hotels and unfortunately a car park (which she found.)
• The indoor rides are for young children and I’ve blogged already about how much my little man loved them, we asked on the first day if a parent could go on with B as she would have no trouble undoing the lap strap and getting off half way round if she felt like it. We were told this wasn’t allowed and then on the last day overheard a family being told that a member of staff could take a young child on. We were obviously wildly disappointed that this was never offered to us as it meant B had to miss out for the whole trip.
• The swimming pool was advertised as “cool” in fact it was cold and uncomfortable to get in, especially for a child with sensory difficulties.
• Back to the pool and its disabled facilities, these were not good enough! Gone are the days where you can put a rail in a larger cubicle and call it a disabled changing room. My daughter needs a changing table as she is still in nappies and over a metre tall, we struggled but managed with two of us, how people with a larger, heavier person manage I don’t know. This goes for the disabled toilets in throughout, I have suggested they talk to Changing Places who are campaigning to get disabled people the facilities they need.
Also as we were expecting to be in the pool sometime we asked if we could take her special needs pushchair poolside, nobody seemed to know and were eventually directed to someone who offered us one of their water wheelchairs WITH NO STRAPS! When we pointed out this problem we were asked if we had a way of restraining her in the chair like a belt?? This is not disabled aware, autism aware or even particularly kind. Eventually we were allowed to use our own chair and then had to wheel her fully dressed through the showers to the “disabled facilities” which clashed badly with my daughter sensory processing disorder, it wasn’t fun and yes everyone did stare at us.
We were originally offered a disabled room in the hotel as it allowed us more space for large pushchairs etc but had to decline as they only have showers which my daughter (and son for that matter) cannot tolerate.
We only used the pool once; it was in the “quiet time” and unfortunately was still super busy. My daughter has no self-control and doesn’t follow instructions so being somewhere that busy for us was just impossible.
Nowadays Autism diagnoses are up to as high as possibly 1/50 which is astonishing, many of these children have similar difficulties; struggling with crowds, loud noises, bright lights, being a flight risk etc. There is also a saying that “when you meet one person with Autism you have met one person with Autism.” Their differences can be as pronounced as their similarities and whilst I would never expect Butlin’s or any other resort to cater to my child specifically I think maybe their view of disability could change. Everywhere is “accessible” for wheelchair users which is fantastic but disability is so much more than a chair and for a family with a hidden disability such as ASD we need more than ramps, we need understanding.
As I said at the start, my daughter had a great time but she has no expectations unlike her brother. Many other children with purely physical disabilities may feel they have to miss out and nobody wants that.
I was given a free trip to Butlins and asked to review it honestly. We had a lovely time but some of the issues we faced really did put a negative blip onto what could’ve been a really amazing holiday. Butlin’s have been given the opportunity to read this and after months of back and forth have said the issues with the holes in the outdoor play perimeter, toileting and changing rooms have been “passed on to the correct departments.” I feel like I forced them into this after a couple of apologetic emails. Apologies are great but not much help when you have a nappy to change urgently! I hope to hear from them soon in regards to possible upgrades.