Friday, 1 August 2014

Alton Towers, Autism and no meltdowns.

I took my children to Alton Towers last week. My eldest son has autism and I had been putting the trip off for a long time because I really worried about how he’d cope, not just with queues but with the crowds and the high visual and auditory stimulation.

I needn’t have worried. Alton Towers seem to cater very well for disabled people. When we arrived we were able to get ride access passes on proof of disability which allows the disabled child to jump the queues for the rides. Unlike many other theme parks who only offer the pass to the disabled person and their carer, Alton Towers allow the disabled child to ride with three other people, the only stipulation being that one of these must be an adult. This made a huge difference because we went with friends, if my son had had to wait while his friends queued then the pass would have been a waste of time.

We also took my son’s friend who has diabetes, I was really impressed at the attentiveness of the staff who gave us the wristbands to notice he uses a pump system and proactively tell us he would need to disconnect it for some of the rides; they gave us a map where they marked those rides out.

The park also give out wristbands for all children that you can write your mobile number on, if they get lost a member of staff will be able to then remove their wristband and contact you. This gives peace of mind if you have a child prone to wander off, or if like me, you have several children to keep an eye on. There were lots of staff around and they were all friendly and helpful.

Alton Towers is huge with lots of quiet green spaces between the rides. In some ways this is a disadvantage because it takes ages to walk between the rides. But with a child with autism it’s a massive bonus, because the park doesn’t feel busy and there are lots of peaceful spots to rest in. The park was not too crowded and my son was happy and relaxed

Be warned though that Alton Towers will fleece you for every penny you have so save up and take a picnic if you go. I bought the children a hotdog at the end of the day. They were £4.95 each. A refillable drink is £7. I expected this though so didn’t mind too much, theme parks are after all notorious for their expensive food. What I found really annoying is that after charging upwards of £40 for a ticket they additionally charged £6 to park the car. Surely for that ticket price they could afford to include parking. They also do the usual thing of making you walk through a gift shop (and an arcade too after Oblivion) as you get off the rides, I found this particularly difficult with my son who is easily distracted by bright shiny things, in fact the only time we momentarily lost him was in the arcade after Oblivion.

We took several children with us, all different ages and sizes. Because Alton Towers is so huge it was difficult to make sure everyone got a good amount of rides because getting from the big rides to the small rides was time consuming. But if you do have to do this there really is something there for everyone and all the kids seemed to really enjoy themselves. The driving school was a hit with the little ones and the bigger ones loved Oblivion and 13. There were also plenty of things we could all go on together such as the Charlie and the Chocolate Factory ride which was a lot of fun, and Hex which frankly I didn’t like and the little ones found a bit boring as the build up to the ride (you watch videos telling a ghost story) was too long. We all had fun on those boats where you shoot each other with water and got very wet in the process. 

The ride attendants are very strict about the height restrictions. We had two children who were about half a cm too short for some rides and this did lead to some disappointment, irritatingly enough they measure you AFTER you have queued for the ride as well so if you don’t have ride access passes or choose not to use them for some rides this could lead to major disappointment if you have thought you’re tall enough and they say you’re not. Next time I go will be when the children have grown WAY past the height limits so there is no question.

The only other disappointing thing was that the rides close at 6pm. Because the park is so big it’s hard to fit in everything you want to do, and in the summer when the days are long it seems they could stay open another hour or two. But really this is a testament to how much fun we were having that we didn’t want the day to end.

Although for the cost Alton Towers has to be one of those big rare treats overall it’s a really fantastic fun filled day out that caters for everyone in the family with pretty much any need you can imagine. My son loved it and the only things he found difficult was dealing with not being able to get on rides due to height restrictions and the fact the day had ended. We found Alton Towers to be a really peaceful environment (well as peaceful as you can expect a theme park to be) with the ability to meet all our needs. 


  1. Beautiful photos especially the one showing the greenery! I would love to visit there with our little ones. I think it is wonderful that your son was able to enjoy. I have friends who have children with autism and it is not always easy to find good places for visiting.

  2. The photos are all off Alton Towers website so I can't take credit for them; all mine had my kids in so I couldn't use them ;o) Crazily enough we went for a small trip out to a free city museum today and it was more stressful and difficult than Alton Towers! ;o) Think it's about being confined in a small space with crowds with my son.

  3. Thanks for posting this. I also have a child with autism and, like you, I have put off trips to theme parks. You've inspired me to give Alton Towers serious consideration :)

  4. I would highly recommend it. The weekend after we went on a rainy day outing to a free museum which illicited more stress and meltdowns than the big Alton Towers Trip. I am learning that the feeling of being 'cooped up' or 'hemmed in' too many crowds, not enough space is a big factor in my sons ability to cope.


Thanks for your comments and encouragement.