Background - Appendix B

Recommendations by Radlett Lodge School when preparing for the visit of a person on the Autistic spectrum

Public Building Access Criteria

Pre Visit

Information that would be invaluable:

  • Details of Parking and Entry
  • Individuals with autism can find waiting hard to understand. Where needed is there a separate entrance that can be used to avoid queuing?
  • Whether waiting is required at entrance, exit or any point in between?
  • Is there parking near an entrance that can be reserved?
  • What security has to be completed, what will they have to walk through?
  • Can security checks be done separately rather than in an environment that some may find difficult?
  • Can security be adapted to those who find touch difficult for example or who may find going through unfamiliar archways & scanners a difficult transition?

Details of Building

  • Are there revolving doors?
  • Are there narrow or unusual doors or entrances?
  • Are there narrow corridors?
  • Are there narrow or winding staircases?
  • How many floors are there?
  • Are there Lifts and Escalator, do they have to be used at any point?
  • Is there entrance or exit through a shop?
  • Are there “Hands On” galleries or displays?
  • Are there features that individuals can climb on?
  • Are there balconies or galleries?
  • Where is the shop – so escorting staff know what to expect?
  • How busy will the venue be and when, are there quiet times?
  • Can the party bring their own snacks and drinks – cafeterias and restaurants can be hard for some individuals?
  • Is there a place where snacks and drinks can be eaten? 
  • For many a quiet low arousal room where the party can assemble on arrival, settle down and sort out toileting and snacks would be a real benefit.   This can be the start and end point?
  • Is there an outside space where supporting staff can take individuals to calm down and where they can back off without members of the public getting involved?  (Often this is intended as helpful but is equally often just the opposite in its effect).  Or is the facility hard on roads and busy public spaces?
  • Again is there a quiet low arousal room where staff can take an individual who is becoming anxious and back off safely?
  • Is there more than one entrance and exit – both from the arrival and leaving point of view but also relevant to lost child procedures?
  • Need a Key Contact: a contact who understands autism the request that might be made in the dialogue needed to set up a successful visit.

Arranging the Visit

What the organisers of the trip should tell the Facility:

  • An overview of the group – levels of function, communication skills and needs.
  • Any critical individual needs.
  • Individual characteristics that it is useful to know about, this might go so far as a short pen portrait in some cases.
  • Transitions – if some will need longer times to move from area to area.
  • Any special arrangements required to avoid specific triggers with individuals
  • Any risk assessments that need to be shared so facility staff know what to expect and can “expect the unexpected”.
  • Any sensory needs that should be taken into account.
  • Likely differences in pace of the group – some may find transition difficult and be slower at making transitions from area to area or room to room.
  • If specially adjusted programmes are needed that suit the abilities and needs of the group.
  • If a member of the group is likely to get stuck in transitions.
  • Symbol sets used by the members of the group and agree what they will bring.

What the Facility should arrange with the group:

  • Arrangements for lunch.
  • Who will meet and who will conduct any tour.
  • Any predictable loud noises.
  • Fire drill and procedures – including how the party will return safely if a false alarm takes place. 
  • Priority re-entry if there is a fire alarm is a real advantage so that the group can be kept together and safe.   In a group of children there may be absconders or children may get confused, lost or disturbed in a crowd.
  • Any choices that will be presented so that the difficulty many individuals with autism experience with choices can be mitigated and the right support prepared.
  • Where needed programmes that suit the abilities and needs of the group.

On the day

  • Met by a key person who understands autism.
  • Key contact and guides to have some key symbols in A4 size, such as quiet, wait, sit, listen and stop.
  • A quiet room to assemble settle down and deal with toileting and snacks.
  • Pictures of tour and processes might be useful for some.
  • Staff at facility should have the appropriate level of understanding from awareness through to more expertise for guides and key contacts.
  • Guides should be aware of the pace of the group – it may split if some find transition difficult and both visitor support staff and facility staff should be aware of this so that a group is not left understaffed or lost.
  • Guides and key staff should be aware of techniques such as counting into transitions and where appropriate use them or ensure that support staff from the visiting group do.
  • Tour guides and key contact should understand and be able to use reduced language – possibly through clear scripting.
  • Facility staff should know to expect the unexpected = good autism awareness
  • Ever member of staff should know there is a group with autism visiting.
  • Staff should have autism alert cards that they can show to other visitors if needed.
  • Staff at the facility should not act as experts and attempt interventions.
  • All staff and especially security staff should know what not to do in incidents and so back off in incidents and have an understanding of the concept of triggers and de-escalation.
  • A clear start middle and end, guides to understand that the end is the end and not to carry on informally after.
  • Best to end back in the quiet room to wind down do toileting and snacks.
  • A safe exit close to where transport is parked, and a reserved parking place for pick up.
  • Clearly marked pathways from exit to transport area.
  • Individuals may get stuck in transition staff should ensure members of the public “back off” and do not try to help – autism alert cards.

For the guides

Avoid

  • Dangly jewellery
  • Bright and over patterned clothes
  • Cartoon characters on clothes
  • Strong perfumes – be aware of sensory issues
  • Have hair tied back or short
  • Awareness of spatial issues affecting some individuals with autism
  • Touching
  • Wear low arousal clothing not too bright or strongly pattered

Understand

  • Difficulties with choice
  • Need for sticking to structure
  • To be clear in use of language and instruction

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