The National Autistic Society estimates that “there are around 700,000 people on the autism spectrum in the UK…If you include their families, autism is a part of daily life for 2.8 million people.”
So when it comes to looking for the best autism friendly accommodation for a much needed break away, what does that entail?
Can one accommodation provider really accommodate the many and varied needs that someone with autism might have?
What are the challenges associated with Autism Spectrum Disorder (ASD)?
1 in every 100 people in the UK has a diagnosis of Autism Spectrum Disorder (ASD) or autism – and it is thought that a significant number of people remain undiagnosed.
A lifelong condition which affects how people perceive the world and interact with others, autism manifests in a huge variety of ways.
Many of those diagnosed live a completely independent and autonomous life, whilst others require significant support throughout the whole of their life.
A common misconception about people with autism in terms of sensory processing is that they are all sensory avoiders, keen to escape loud noises, large groups and direct eye contact.
Whilst this is indeed the case for a lot of people, there are others with a diagnosis of autism who underreact to sensory input and therefore actively seek it out. As sensory seekers, they thrive in a busy atmosphere and in fact need it to function.
All of which means that finding accommodation that can be considered suitable for anyone with autism requires the provider to both understand the condition and offer a truly flexible setting.
Fortunately, YHA has the answer with over 150 hostels across England and Wales able to cater for a huge variety of individual and group requirements.
What should I look for in autism friendly accommodation?
Everyone with autism is of course first and foremost an individual so it’s important to remember that what might suit one person may be of less importance to another.
That said, there are still some common themes when it comes to providing autism friendly accommodation, whether it is for someone travelling alone, with a family or as part of a large group.
An understanding of sensory sensitivity
Individuals with ASD often prefer somewhere quiet to retreat to and recharge, well away from the hustle and bustle. This is especially important if they have a preference for sensory avoidance.
YHA offers great flexibility here with communal spaces interspersed with quieter spaces, so there’s usually somewhere to go to escape from it all, whether it’s to your own private room (not all our accommodation is shared) or one of our quiet lounge areas.
Many of our hostels feature private grounds or immediate access to the great outdoors from the doorstep. Perfect for finding your own peace and quiet.
Continuity across all locations
Whilst we are lucky enough to have a wide and diverse portfolio of hostels, from gothic mansions such as YHA Castleton Losehill Hall to repurposed shipping containers at YHA Eden Project, one thing you can count on is brand continuity once you step inside.
This can be particularly reassuring for anyone with autism, as they know to expect bunk beds!
A well trained, friendly and super helpful staff team
We are often complimented on our friendly and helpful team, whether it’s the contact centre team who are on hand six days a week to answer your calls, or the hostel teams themselves, with their huge wealth of knowledge about their individual property and nearby attractions and events.
Our staff receive disability awareness training and many of them have first-hand experience of guests with autism. Which can really help reassure you when you arrive at a new location and need to find a friendly face.
Whatever your requirements, our teams are more than happy to help. And if there’s something more specific that you need, please don’t hesitate to contact us in advance of your stay.
Comprehensive information about your accommodation before you arrive
Changes to a set routine can unsettle most of us but for someone with autism, this can have a profoundly negative effect. Which is why we have gone to great lengths to ensure that you can find out as much as possible about each hostel – and its local environment – long before you arrive.
This includes photographs on our website of all the main areas, as well as short video tours and 3D 360 degree immersive tours, which allow you to ‘step in’ to a room or communal space in a hostel and navigate your way around in huge detail.
Wi-Fi can be make or break for a lot of us when it comes to booking holiday accommodation away. But for someone with autism, accessing the internet is essential as a means of de-escalating from a period of stress by watching a favourite movie or playing a favourite game.
Wi-Fi is available at a number of our hostels. It is free for guests to use in communal areas or throughout the hostel at selected locations. Check out the facilities section of the hostel page for more information.
Self-catering facilities and on site cafes
If there is someone in your group who prefers to cook for themselves, it is a great help to know that YHA hostels offer self-catering facilities. Perfect for fussy eaters or those keen to do their own thing.
Most of our hostels have self-catering facilities, and you can find out whether your chosen hostel does or not on the relevant hostel page.
For those who fancy a complete break from cooking (you are on your holidays after all!), many of our hostels provide a delicious meals service including a buffet-style cooked and continental breakfast, lunches and evening meals, all served in our hostel restaurants.
Some of our hostels also have a licensed bar, ideal for relaxing in after a long day.
Light bites and refreshments are available throughout the day at a number of hostels with a café. Our cafes are also open to non-guests so, if you’re nearby, you could always pop in for coffee and cake prior to your stay to familiarise your family with the surroundings.
Assistance dogs welcome
Some people with ASD benefit for having an assistance dog, as a means of helping them cope with the stress and anxiety that is so commonly associated with autism.
Autism assistance dogs are specifically trained to offer both safety and companionship for someone who is autistic. They can help decrease stress, offering comfort to someone with autism when they’re upset as well as helping to reduce behavioural outbursts.
Whilst only our camping and cabin accommodation accepts pet dogs, all of our hostels welcome assistance dogs, free of charge. Just let us know in advance if you’re planning on bringing a registered assistance dog.
Can YHA accommodate groups of people with autism?
YHA not only welcomes individual guests with autism, we also take group bookings for 16 or more people.
These can be self-led residentials, where you can do your own thing whilst still having full access to the hostel’s facilities.
How to make an individual or group booking for an autism friendly break
If you would like to make a booking to stay in any one of our 150 hostels in England and Wales, you can book your chosen hostel directly online via our website.
Visit our Groups site to find out more about larger autism friendly group bookings, for over 16 people in a hostel.
Excellent customer service is a priority for us and if there is anything we can do to make your stay with someone with autism in one of our hostels more comfortable, then please just let us know.