Dinky and Me do Paulton’s Park-review

Not that I am going to get paid for doing a review, I just think it is important for parents of autistic kids to share places and hints and tips to going out (if we can get our kids out that is).

Paulton’s Park is on the edge of Southampton. It is home to Peppa Pig world, has some non themed rides for older kids, but has just opened ‘The Lost Kingdom’… which is dinosaur themed. Dinky is really into dinos, so seems like a logical place to take her!

Before I went with Dinky I checked out 2 things…

  1. Price. Well, I am a little surprised that there was no carers admission discount. Apparently that would discriminate against disabled people. (I am pulling a face that I cant really put into words).
    For a season pass it is double that of a Thorpe Park annual pass, and in the merlin sale at the moment it is only a fraction cheaper than a standard pass which gives entry to 4 theme parks, every sealife centre, shrek, London eye, London dungeons, warwick castle and loads more. So not entirely cheap for the one park.
  2. the queue assist. For any autistic child a Queue assist is going to make all the difference to a day out. I was a little disappointed to find out that you can only go on each ride once with the queue assist and then you would have to queue for subsequent rides. As Merlin annual passholders we are used to being able to go on any ride more than once as the ride access passes don’t say what rides you can go on. Only Legoland stipulate no more than once in an hour.

    You need to take a letter with diagnosis on to be eligible for this policy.

    I must admit the way the QA policy worked was new to me, and me being me, my logic kicks in and I get rather irritated as over half the rides on the pass are for Peppa Pig world, which I can tell you Dinky was more than adamant she was NOT stepping foot in there! So we wouldn’t even be accessing all the rides. But I also had to remember that Paulton’s Park wouldn’t be as busy as Chessington or any other Merlin Theme park.

So we set off early as it is a little bit of a way for us. I must say Dinky handled the journey well, not once did I want to duct tape her mouth due to the onset of ‘are we there yet?’.

We got in without a queue and went to the first aid place to pick up the queue assist.

The nurse was lovely and explained how it worked.

We went straight to the lost kingdom. I would have liked to see some of the rest of the park, but I wasn’t there for me. We went straight on the velociraptor as there was no queue. It was my first time on a boomerang coaster. I loved it and so did Dinky.

After we checked out Dinosaur Alive, which was a T-Rex in a pen (man in costume). Dinky loved it! The T-Rex made its way round snapping and roaring at the kids, and the half that didn’t cry, laughed and really enjoyed it!

We went on the dinosaur tour in the little jeeps. Usually it is a bit ‘young’ for an 8 year old, but Dinky thoroughly enjoyed it!

We then went on Flight of the Pterosaur. Both Dinky and I love rollercoasters. All I can say is ‘wow’! For a family coaster with a height restriction of 1.1m and over 4 years old, it was a pretty thrilling ride. The queue assist queue was really quick and the staff really friendly.

We headed back to velociraptor…oh, how different! Trying to use the queue assist was a royal pain! First we had to wait for people purchasing photos to be served before we could get the photo sales people to phone up to the ride operators. We then waited for 3 rides to fill up and file out before we were called up to the halfway point of the exit ramp, and even then we had to wait for a while. Dinky was not impressed and neither was I. The queue was still small enough to have gone round and been on and off again by this point, but Dinky doesn’t cope with being in a line with other people. (I was reminded of that later in the day when we tried to go back on again from the main queue).

We managed to get on cobra and edge… Dinky managed to convince me to go on magma. Roller coasters I can do… I am happy to go on 10 loop coasters and hope for the day to go to Alton Towers and go on the smiler… but a straight up and down plunge isn’t really my thing. In the end it wasn’t as bad as I thought.. Dinky enjoyed it and that is all that mattered.

Over all we had a pretty good day and I cant praise the staff there enough for answering questions and helping us to enjoy our day.

Dinky loved all the dinosaur theming!

We have several ride photos (5, in total) and Dinky managed to come away with a dino teddy and an official guide book.

We also managed to come away with season passes! So we will be returning.

Sure it isn’t perfect, but it is charming and the staff are fantastic. well worth a visit.




Dinky is growing

I am constantly amazed by Dinky, more often since starting her special school.

She is just growing and achieving beyond what I thought was possible 18 months ago. Readers are going to start getting bored of me praising the school, but I cant thank them enough.

Dinky’s communication has improved a lot.. she has always been a talker but not a fantastic communicator, I learnt very early on that the two aren’t mutually exclusive. Now she can tell me when she feels sad and instead of running off, she will ask for something.

I laughed so hard the other morning when I had this conversation with Dinky (she was in a state of lower anxiety which was great)…

Me: Yes you can have a snack once you are dressed

So with my help she gets her t-shirt, pants and trousers on… and promptly runs out of the room…

me: where are you going? You’re not dressed yet

Dinky comes back to the door- looks at me with deep concentration on her face as she sees me holding up a pair of socks… She motions to her top and trousers and

Dinky: Technically… Dressed!

Me: But you haven’t got your socks on (I was trying so hard not to laugh)

Dinky: Not Nakie (naked)

She won that one- I tried so so hard not to laugh! I put her socks on while she had an apple.

I was just so proud of her being able to use a technicality to get her way. I know most parents would be annoyed, but technically it is my own fault for not specifying which items of clothing constituted being dressed and as she frequently runs around the house and school without socks- to her they are an optional extra.

Progress shouldn’t be monitored by exams and tests… it is the little things that can be a sign of great progress.


School questionnaires shouldnt rule out assessments

This seems really obvious, but week in and week out I am reading posts in Autism groups where schools are saying things are fine when they clearly are not.

I went through this with Dinky and it almost led to her not getting an autism assessment because of what both schools said- and now look at her in a specialist independent ASD school, the cost of her placement alone could pay for 27 mainstream school placements.

So why are schools given so much power over diagnosis… Money.

It is cheaper to send a non-medically trained teacher who probably thinks Sheldon Cooper and ‘rain man’ are 2 of the 3 variations of autism (the other being a non-verbal person rocking in a corner possibly flapping and with or without ear defenders on), who has spent a total of one teacher training day on autism, a questionnaire- than it is to send a person trained in autism to pick up the more subtle signs of autism.

This morning I read that a child is not being seen by CAMHS because she is ‘good’ in school.

I am sorry what now?

Since when does being ‘good’ equal not autistic?

Are autistic people bad?

No we  bloody well aren’t! We are more than capable of being ‘good’ and we pick up on all those things that others say about the ‘odd’ things we do and we try not to do them to fit in.

This poor kid is probably trying so hard to be like everyone else and it is that which is making her needs go unnoticed. But there will be signs that all is not as it seems. There will be social communication issues and interaction issues that don’t quite seem right.

A school teacher with 30 kids, lesson plans to do, homework to mark, a head teacher pushing them to meet targets, a senco asking what three different kids are doing and how their work is being differentiated, a school trip to plan and risk assess, and a class pet to keep alive- plus possibly a partner and children at home.. isn’t going to have the time or energy to look for these signs.

so the questionnaire comes in and the teacher says they don’t see any of the things from that child. That child doesn’t strike the teacher as much different to the rest. All primary kids have their little quirks, but autism? Then the paediatrician or consultant at camhs reads it and says ‘behaviour not seen across all areas… stick them on a parenting course’… and then goes for the next one in a bundle of ‘cases’ they got that morning.

I can see how it gets done, I see how these kids get missed, and it is only really the parents of the children who carry on banging or whose children get fed up of trying to be like everyone else it seems like their autism came ‘out of nowhere’… and THEN they get seen and diagnosed after a 2 year waiting list.


If there was more money for assessments then they could train people (or use LEA autism outreach/social communication teams – as the need is there so the child may well need support in school) to go in and make a preliminary report for the consultant. Taking the pressure off the teacher and a more accurate assessment of how the child presents in school.

It was just that, which got Dinky her diagnosis. Social communication team and the educational psychologist came into school and I was able to use their reports to prove that she showed autistic behaviours in school despite the schools insistence that she didn’t- even with the report they sent to the paediatrician which stated that she had trouble socialising, had behavioural problems, didn’t like change or transitions, didn’t like loud or crowded places and needed to be in control.

Schools are NOT autism specialists.

Often Parents believe that schools refuse to acknowledge because then they have to put in funding for things. They say there are no issues because then they have to use their tiny pot of money on support for the child.

Again it is all about money.

When is it going to be about the children?

Is it a wonder that often young people and young adults with autism suffer from depression and anxiety, when their needs have been dismissed for so long due to costings?

Would a teacher/head teacher/senco be happy if that was their child?

The school questionnaires should not stop a child or young person getting an autism assessment.

Genetics not parenting!

For those that follow this blog regularly or for a long time-you will know already how much I struggled in the beginning to get Dinky’s needs recognised. 

I was at a social care innovation meeting yesterday and the idea was brought up that I go on the video explaining the assessment process- I don’t have an issue being filmed in the general sense, but I do worry about people’s inability to see past appearance. 

I felt that people may think it wasn’t a child disability assessment service because I am often seen as a parent who would have other reasons for a social care assessment- like what the second school pulled.

I have mentioned before that I am seen as a ‘chav in a hat’, maybe not quite so much anymore since I swapped my Nike trainers for walking trainers, my typical baseball cap for a Harry Potter one with a ‘military’ style shape, and sometimes wear fleeces instead of hoodies, but the hoodies I do have are not sports brands anymore. It is sad that I felt I had to alter my apperance because people were judging my parenting and dismissing my daughters needs based on it. 

I will never forget both mainstream head teachers, not so subtly, remind me that I am working class and ‘less’ than them. 

That is me, and I’m ok with that, but when that is instantly used as a reason for a child’s struggles to the exclusion of the evidence before them… Well, that is NOT ok! 

I remember the feeling when I went back to the school with Dinky’s ASD-PDA diagnosis. It was brilliant! It was proof that my parenting was not the cause- the chav in a hat is capable of decent parenting. 

I will have to admit that they were right on one count…. it is my fault Dinky is ‘the way she is’ but not in the way they thought….

genetics- not parenting.