In the past, we have only been on week long holidays as our ASD children struggle to cope with being away from their normal routine for longer. This year we decided to try a longer holiday and went camping for 10 days, came home for a couple of days, then went away for another 4 days of camping.
Our first trip was to a wonderful campsite called Crealy Meadows, near Exeter in Devon. It has first class facilities and I couldn’t fault the toilet and shower blocks. which are always an important factor when camping. Underfloor heating, huge walk in showers, with room to get changed without your clothes getting wet from the shower and I never queued once in 10 days. The pitches were large and everyone had their own water tap. Attached to the campsite, which was the main attraction for our kids was a small theme park, which we could access form a side gate and so avoid queing up with the public. We were able to go everyday and if we went first thing, we escaped the long queues for the rides and could spend an hour or so in there and then have the day to visit the local seaside towns. In the evening, the campsite opened up an indoor play area, which included drop slides and obstacle courses. This was a ready made sensory circuit programme for our youngest son and it tended not to be too busy, as it was just people from the campsite who could visit at that time. Live entertainment was also put on each night and although initially our kids were not interested, by night six they were asking to go and see ‘Crazy Cameron’ or ‘Cheeky Charlie’, who helped to run the entertainment programme.
The campsite offered a half day ‘Own a Pony’ experience. Our youngest son had asked me to book this for him, but when the day arrived, he decided he wasn’t going to take part. I encouraged him to at least go and see the ponies and we were lucky as it was only him taking part that day. The animal keeper was very patient and experienced with ASD children and let him take his time to get used to being around his pony. Within 20 minutes, he was captivated by being able to groom, walk and feed the pony. At the end of the session, he asked if he could repeat the experience again. Every day after that we visited the ponies, so that he could talk to them.
Buying food for our meals was made easier by having a huge Tescos located 5 minutes drive away from the campsite. Although we like to try local butchers, delicatessens etc when we are in different areas, our ASD children are fussy eaters and so like to be able to buy what they would eat at home. Being away from home and normal routine is not a moment to ask an ASD child to try new food, unless you want a meltdown to occur.
Weatherwise, our holiday started off well with bright sunshine, but by the middle of the break, the rain set in. One morning we woke up to find a small lake in the living area of the tent with worms wriggling around. This caused a meltdown for our daughter as she had not expected to wake up to this – the tent should look as it did when she went to sleep. Instead of helping us to clear up the mess, she retreated to the car to read her book, which was her way of dealing with the situation.
In spite of the weather, none of the kids wanted to come home early, as they were enjoying themselves and so we managed to have 10 days away.
|Exmouth Beach on one of our few sunny days!!|
Our second camping trip was a totally different experience – a field in North Wales with basic toilet facilities and no other entertainment other than watching a steam train coming into the station behind the campsite and to watch the cows and sheep in the fields around us. Pitches were not marked out and the toilets were a portacabin in the field. Showers were across the road by the farmhouse. They were all clean but lots of spiders were living in the portacabins, which unnerved the kids and you had to queue. Three toilets for a field of 80 tents is not enough!! Although the kids love running around in a field and playing games, they didn’t like tents being so close to one another. The biggest problem we had to contend with was the location of a decent supermarket being 25 miles away. Our ASD children struggled to find what they would normally eat in the local shops. Although we take some food with us, as we camp non electric, there is a limit as to how much we can bring, so that it remains fresh.
We had a great time visiting the area though and loved climbing the mountains and going on a horse drawn canal boat in Llangollen.
Both holidays were very different but enjoyable and we've all had the best of both worlds being able to explore the seaside and mountains during the summer holidays.