Autism quiet hours help us answer a very simple question. Do you want to go to the soft play when there are 37 children per square foot and you’ll be lucky to get parked within six miles?
Let me think. Hmm, no not really.
Do you want to go to soft play when it’s almost empty, parking isn’t an issue and you might even get to sit down and enjoy a cup of coffee?
Yes. Sign us up…
If you are a parent to an autistic child you will already know just how great autism quiet hours are – they’re great for our children but, let’s face it, they’re pretty great for us too.
So, in your face solely neurotypical families, here’s why quiet hours are bloody awesome – in fact they’re so good maybe they should be every hour?
1. THAT SMUG SENSE OF ACHIEVEMENT
Autism quiet hours often tend to be scheduled for first thing on a Saturday, that’s fair enough, the business is using time when they might not otherwise be open. However, while 9am might be early to some on a Saturday morning, we’ve been up how long? Maybe three hours by then.
The early start, heading straight to the local session just after breakfast, means an activity is in the bank. By 10am, we, as a family, have been to an activity, whether it’s running around like crazy or a quiet session at a museum or art gallery.
The momentum might not be kept up, the hours of 10am to 2pm might then be spent in the lounge not doing much at all, but we sure get to feel smug as we drive back and glance at the neighbours’ house. It’s gone 10am and they haven’t even drawn their curtains back.
2. SAVE MONEY
How much money would you pay to go to a session where there is only a fraction of the normal capacity?
Don’t know about you, but I would happily pay more for there to be fewer people. Imagine going to the pool. Sir, the standard entry is £7, or you can pay £10 and we’ll kick 50% of the people out. Right you are, here’s that tenner.
If you have an autistic child, an autism quiet hour with fewer people beats one with more. Incredibly though, the sessions often cost less; you can be jumping round a giant inflatable playground, maybe 5 people in total, and you’re paying half as much as the hordes already queuing for the next session. We went to a well-known national aquarium chain recently (and as this is the UK that narrows it down to one company) and it cost a small percentage of the normal fee for what was close to a private tour.
That is a win-win.
3. NO EXPLAINING
As autistic children can struggle to pick up social cues, a busy, social setting can challenging.
At any busy session, assuming the session isn’t already a complete no-go, there might be small little incidents. Your child might latch on to a stranger and try to talk their ear off on a favourite topic. Maybe there will be that moment when a fun time suddenly becomes a bit too much and turns into a meltdown.
At the bog standard sessions there are those constant little worries, the person your child talks to might be lovely and giving with their time, or they might be one of those people who get snotty, wondering why a child is impinging on their personal space.
You learn not to worry about it of course, you can kill someone with your stare, you know that only your child matters, what a random stranger thinks is irrelevant.
However it can be nice being at a quiet hour where all the parents are in that same boat. All the children are that bit more unique (I know, grammar police…), there is just a friendly atmosphere, happy glances and universal acceptance.
4. THE SAME OLD CROWD
Having an autistic child can limit your own social life, not least because when you do get the chance to maybe get a rare evening out you’re so bloody knackered you’re back by 9pm and asleep, on sofa, hot chocolate in hand 15 minutes later.
At the quiet hours there can be a sense of community. Not only will the sessions themselves get shared in social media groups, but when you’re there you will see the same faces.
There are potential play dates, sources of advice, or just people who can keep half an eye on your child while you nip to grab a drink.
You might not get to have an in-depth chat about the state of the country, the state of the cricket team or the weather (all bad), but you do at least feel surrounded by people who have similar lives.
Similar, that is, except for that family you’re sure are completely NT and have snuck in because they’ve learnt of the benefits of quiet sessions. Grrr.
5. MAKING OFF LIMITS ON LIMITS
Within 10 miles of any city there are all sorts of fun sessions, the likes of which simply didn’t exist 30 years ago (I had to be happy with a bowling alley…)
There will be soft plays (of course), also inflatable playgrounds, trampoline parks, go-karting, leisure centres, indoor climbing walls, cinemas, sports clubs of every kind, indoor skiing. There is everything, my god kids are spoilt these days….
To an autistic child, many, if not all of these, would typically be off limits, they would just be too noisy or stressful, they’re as inaccessible as Willy Wonka’s factory to anyone without a Golden Ticket.
Autism quiet hours make them accessible (which is the whole point of course). They mean that a child’s routine does not have to be limited to the few local things that might be suitable, instead they can explore, be inspired, be active, be creative and be fulfilled.
6. SIBLING BONDING
All siblings get annoyed with each other, it’s their purpose in life.
Quiet sessions can, though, be a great time for bonding, perhaps especially if you have one child on the spectrum and one neutrotypical child (I say especially only because that’s what I have and so am basing this off somewhat anecdotal evidence).
You get the perfect combination – an interesting activity, a limited number of people and not being in the house – not being in the house is often a good start to reducing stress, except getting out the house can be stressful, such are the paradoxes we face…
Maybe it’s the sharing in an experience, maybe it’s the dynamic of the relationship, the NT sibling helping their brother or sister (and I wrote about how being the sibling to a child with autism can help you grow up into a wonderfully well-rounded individual (except I haven’t moved that post over from the old site yet)).
Anyway, whatever it is, it works. Let’s leave it at that, we’re all a bit tired.
7. IT’S JUST BETTER!
A cinema screening which just gets on with it, minus 30 minutes of adverts.
A trip the aquarium where you can walk round, without having to listen to the 15-minute preamble designed to flog you a £20 photo of you sitting next to a giant crab.
Shopping without the tannoy announcements.
Autism quiet sessions and hours are in many ways just better for everyone, they are the thing you want to enjoy boiled down into a more manageable form with the extra stuff – waffle, lighting, music, endless people – removed.
Imagine a world in which quiet sessions were the norm; nobody would be clambering to bring in noisy sessions. I’d take the kids to soft play if only it cost more, was far busier and I couldn’t get parked…
Yep, quiet sessions rock (quietly).
- In Manchester? Here are the local autism hours and disability friendly sessions.