Mama OWL Blog: Autism Abroad | #ShepsGoToLaki

Autism Abroad | #ShepsGoToLaki

Wednesday, 30 December 2015

I've spent many evenings over the past few weeks scrolling back wistfully through the photos from our Mark Warner Holidays to Lakitira and Corsica. The darkness seems endless at this time of year, and the cold chills your bones when you're stood on the playground on the school run day in day out, dreaming of sunshine and those long gone Summer days. Warm breezes and sand between your toes, the gentle ebb and flow of the waves on the shore, children's laughter ringing in your ears as family memories are made. I think it's safe to say I have a serious case of the post-holiday blues.


After we arrived at Lakitira back in October for our half term holiday we were so excited to see what the week with Mark Warner would bring, and we weren't disappointed. It was truly an inclusive holiday experience for the whole family.

At the forefront of any decision we make regarding days out or holidays is how will L cope? Is there adequate provision for him? Will he enjoy it? Parents of children with additional needs will understand that if there is even a question of your child being excluded, or unable/unwilling to join in with activities on a day trip or holiday then it's a no-go. You want your child to be safe, to have fun, and to be included. It is paramount.

Travelling with a child with Autism is challenging. You are changing their routine, taking them to a new place, exposing them to a plethora of new sounds, tastes, smells, people which can be overwhelming for any child, but for a child with ASD it is ten-fold - absolute sensory overload and with that comes meltdowns, anger, anxiety, and fear.


We had a successful practice run at taking L abroad earlier in the year when we went to Corsica. Mark Warner provide a holiday childcare service that is second to none, with their teams of fully qualified British nannies who are endlessly patient, caring, and full of enthusiasm. They offer 1:1 special needs childcare at three of their resorts - San Lucianu in Corsica, Levante in Rhodes, and Lakitira in Kos, during selected departure dates and which must be pre-booked over the phone in advance. At San Lucianu L's buddy was Sam, and at Lakitira he was paired up with Rachel. All children with SEN are different and will require different levels of assistance, our needs were discussed in advance of our holiday and I went over everything with them again when we arrived.


L wants to be independent and while he is mostly able-bodied, he has some physical disabilities which hinder his ability to fully involve himself in some activities for a prolonged period of time. He also has very little impulse control and no real understanding of danger so while he is a good swimmer, he cannot be unsupervised in the pool or out on the sea. The childcare staff are of course with the children at all times during club hours and activities, but L does need that extra bit of care and someone to help keep him safe and the fact that Mark Warner can offer this for no extra cost as part of their outstanding childcare provision makes all the difference to a family like mine. We can go on holiday together, we can relax and have fun, and L gets to be a part of it - to join in like every other kid, to make friends, to learn new things. He is included.

As I'm sure any parent of a child with additional needs will tell you, that is all we want.


Rachel and L built up a good friendship during our week at Lakitira. She helped calm him when he was overwhelmed and gave him space when he needed it, she enabled him to be fully involved in all the activities, and just sat with him when he wanted some time out on the beanbags (with his cap over his face, not speaking). She listened to & understood his needs, and made him feel a part of the group which is one of his main struggles. We came away from Lakitira with a young man who had enjoyed his holiday, who had been a part of a group of kids his own age and had had fun. He wasn't made fun of or singled out. As parents of a child with Autism, we came home having felt like we had had a break too. We had no anxiety about his care at any time - when he wanted to be with us he knew where to find us and would come and just sit, and when he wanted to be with the other kids he went off to join in with whatever activity they were doing and he had fun. When things got too much for him, he took his Dad's phone and some earphones and sat in the bar to use the hotel wi-fi and watch some YouTube which he does at home to 'tune out'. It never lasted long though, he was always too keen to get back out & have fun with his new friends but he knew he had the option if he needed it.


I had been concerned about meals because L is very particular about food, from a sensory point of view with texture, smell, and taste. I knew mornings at the breakfast buffet would be manageable, and every day he would go and help himself to cereal or toast, and then eventually pancakes and chocolate sauce once he trusted me enough to taste one. He would fill himself up and then go off to do whatever the Kidz Club team had arranged for them, and he was always the first one in the Trattoria at lunchtime where he stood and patiently waited for the freshly baked pizzas to be put out. The evenings were trickier, the children's high tea was a selection of salads, meats and other dishes suitable for younger ones but L would only ever eat the pizza or very occasionally, the chips. As the week went on he started to join in with the Kidz Club meal in the evening and would eat more pizza then if it was available, otherwise he'd just sit with them before they went off to take part in their evening entertainment.


L was never made to join in with or do anything he didn't want to, and even if he just wanted to sit and watch he was still made to feel a part of the group. At the end of holiday show, the majority of the other kids from his age group took part but L chose not to, though he did sit with all of his friends at the edge of the stage during the performances. At the end of the night he was called up to collect his certificate and Rachel told him and everyone what a pleasure it had been to be his 'buddy' for the week.

I don't think I have ever felt as emotional at the end of a holiday as I did when we left both Corsica and Kos, and when the children were saying goodbye to the staff at both resorts I had to hold back tears. To be able to fully enjoy a holiday with all of my children, where L is included and makes friends and has fun and I don't have to worry, is simply amazing. I am so grateful to Mark Warner Holidays and all of their wonderful staff for the fun, the laughter, and the memories and we will definitely be back again.


Mark Warner Holidays provided flights and half board accommodation for five people as part of the #MarkWarnerMum Ambassadorship. All opinions and words are my own.

22 comments:

  1. Wow, I never knew such services existed. I am so delighted for you and your family that you had this option. Makes for a fabulous holiday. I have been a follower for a long time, sorry that I haven't been very good at leaving comments! Happy New Year to you. :)

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Thank you for your comment and happy new year to you too! It's such a breath of fresh air to be able to fully enjoy a holiday as we have, Mark Warner are leading the way and the difference it makes to families like ours is immeasurable x

      Delete
  2. I did not know that there were holidays with this kind of help either! I'd say that there are many families who would benefit from this service if they knew about it x

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Mark Warner are second to none with their childcare provision in my opinion and the fact that they can offer special needs childcare alongside it and at no extra cost is amazing for families like ours. To be able to have a proper holiday with fun and relaxation is something I thought we could only dream of! Other tour operators should take note, MW have truly nailed it x

      Delete
  3. I'd love to know more about it including the price range

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Prices vary between resort and childcare is included in the price of your holiday (special needs childcare must be booked in advance and over the phone). Their Summer 2016 prices are on their website now including lots of special offers, check out www.markwarner.co.uk or give their very helpful sales team a call to talk over your requirements x

      Delete
  4. What an amazing service. I was discussing this very topic with a friend the other day and so it is lovely to read real world and real life example.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. It really makes the difference to families like ours, to be able to fully enjoy the experience without worry was amazing!

      Delete
  5. How wonderful. And what a wealth of tops and info. Thank you for sharing xxx @rainbowsaretoo

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. You're very welcome, I hope that it gives inspiration to other families with children with additional needs who want an inclusive holiday experience - Mark Warner have nailed it!

      Delete
  6. How fantastic that you had that support. Our kids club staff were also amazing. There wasn't an official SEN person but one girl really took my big lad under her wing and it made a huge difference to us. What an amazing holiday!

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. It really made our holiday, no anxiety or worry about him and he just got to enjoy the break and make new friends, and we got to relax a bit - no mean feat! That's great to hear that you have had a good experience too, inclusion is the way forward

      Delete
  7. How amazing! This sounds just fantastic and I'm so glad he was able to enjoy his holiday and feel included.

    #SpectrumSunday

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. It was fantastic, such a wonderful positive experience for our whole family

      Delete
  8. Sounds like you all had a fantastic time. Holidays are always a difficult one with autism, but it's good to know there are options like this out there. We're yet to risk the airport experience yet, but hopefully will as my boys get older.

    #SpectrumSunday

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. It was great we loved it and all of the children keep asking when we can go back! It was a thoroughly positive experience for us all.

      Delete
  9. Sounds so lovely. Just what we are looking for. Not sure you can get to Corsica from Ireland where we're based. The Mark Warner agent in Ireland are Sunway who haven't returned my calls. And when I called Mark Warner UK to book they wouldn't deal with me & sent me back to Sunway... found it a bit disappointing.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. That is disappointing, unfortunately I don't know anything about travelling from Ireland to Corsica - but I do know that it is a beautiful island well worth visiting and MW resorts are second to none in my experience, I hope you manage to find a way to visit.

      Delete
  10. How fantastic! I will definitely be looking up Mark Warner holidays now! I have seen some fab reviews this year, but nothing that appealed to me so much. We love holidays, Hayden loves holidays as the beach is his favourite place in the world, but James and I come back even more exhausted than normal. Knowing he could join in with the kids club could make a drastic difference to future holidays! Thank you for joining me on #spectrumsunday. I really hope you come back this week! xx

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. It honestly is the most wonderful holiday experience I could have wished for. I watch our videos back and look at photos and feel all wistful, it was such a lovely time.

      Delete
  11. I'm so impressed by the level of support and care your family had on the holiday. My friend has a son with autism, and she's only just managed to have a successful break away with him (he's 6). That was in the UK, so I'll let her know about the MW childcare - I'm sure she'd like to consider it as an option for an overseas break that the whole family can enjoy.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. It is absolutely worth checking out, they are leading the way for families living with SEN :)

      Delete

Comments are moderated (to prevent spam) but are always welcomed!
If you would like to keep up to date with my latest posts you are able to subscribe by email to have them delivered to your inbox! All details can be found in the Contact Me tab. Thank you for reading.

Related Posts Plugin for WordPress, Blogger...
Proudly designed by | mlekoshiPlayground |